UConn fencing traveled to Rhode Island College in Providence, Rhode Island, over the weekend, to compete in the U.S. Association of Collegiate Fencing Clubs’ national fencing championship. Overall, the Huskies placed 19th out of 40 teams, an improvement over their previous placing of 27th last year.
On Saturday, women’s foil came into the round-robin stage already down a fencer, as alternate Sally Dai was sidelined with a knee injury pre-tournament, but the team persisted nonetheless. Overall, the squad came out of pools with a 16-12 record, which was good enough for the No. 11 seed in the Sunday bracket. A strip fencer Sneha Kumar and C strip Julia Luscomb each won four of their bouts, and B strip Kathryn Atkinson won eight. Atkinson came very close to qualifying for the individual bracket on Saturday afternoon, but unfortunately missed it by one bout.
On Sunday, UConn came roaring out of the gate, defeating No. 22 URI 5-2 in the round of 32 to advance to fence No. 6 Mount Holyoke. From here, the momentum continued, as Kumar, Atkinson and Luscomb upset Holyoke 5-3 to claim a spot in the top eight. Unfortunately, this is where the team began to cool off, losing 5-0 to eventual champions No. 3 Michigan, then losing 5-1 to No. 7 BU and finally finishing eighth overall after a 5-1 loss to No. 9 Dartmouth.
Overall, it was a fantastic performance for women’s foil. An eighth place finish is a dramatic improvement from the 25th place result UConn got at the last nationals, and the squad only lost to teams seeded higher than it, while also beating the No. 6 seed on the way.
As UConn’s 2019 men’s foil squad was the only UConn squad to make the top eight, its 2022 iteration had a tough act to follow, but A strip fencer Xavier Braun, B strip Phil Nicopoulos, C strip Josh Liefeld and alternate Finn Byrne seemed up to the task. Finishing the round-robin stage with a 17-16 record, the team was seeded No. 15 going into the bracket. On the way there, Braun won three bouts, Nicopoulos won eight and Liefeld won six.
Sunday came with another roster scratch for foil, as Braun was sidelined for the day, giving Byrne the opportunity to fence as a starter in the bracket stage. Despite being down its top fencer, men’s foil took down No. 18 UMass 5-3 to advance to the round of 16, but was stopped there. Three consecutive losses to eventual runners-up No. 2 Northeastern, No. 10 Michigan State and No. 14 Binghamton had them fencing for 15th in the final round, where they beat No. 12 UChicago to remain exactly where their initial seeding had placed them.
While 15th may not be the best result the UConn men’s foil squad has ever achieved, it’s still very impressive, as the completely new squad managed to finish in the top – half despite being down its A-strip for the entire bracket.
As the first UConn women’s epee squad to ever make an appearance at nationals, the team made up of Grace McFadden, Lela Romeo and Kelly Yeung had already made quite the accomplishment by being at the event, but that’s not where the achievements ended. In Saturday’s round robin event, the team finished with a 12-15 record, with McFadden beating four of her opponents, Romeo beating five and Yeung beating three, on the way to a No. 17 seeding out of 29.
In the bracket, the Huskies were sent to the lower bracket in the first round by No. 16 Florida, with a 1-5 bout score. In round two, due to the lack of a full 32 teams in the competition, UConn received a bye. For round three, the Huskies lost a nail biting 4-5 match to No. 25 Dartmouth, then lost 3-5 to Holyoke in the fourth round. The team ended up finishing 24th, as they were defeated 0-5 by Swarthmore in the final round.
While they were not able to win a match on Sunday, what women’s epee achieved this year was a massive step forward for both the program and for the individuals themselves. Romeo and Yeung had never fenced before this year, while McFadden had switched to epee from foil only a few months before the pandemic halted competition. All in all, the sky is the limit for the Huskies going forward.
Men’s epee’s Saturday performance was one for the ages. A strip Edward Russell, B strip Chris Pedersen and C strip Sam Zelin did not lose a bout for the first 15, then proceeded to finish the day with a 25-5 record, as Russell went 9-1 while Pedersen and Zelin each went 8-2. Both Russell and Zelin qualified for the individual tournament, with Zelin placing 15th, while Russell placed 5th out of 105, earning a medal.
Due to their stellar round robin stage, the Huskies were seeded No. 1 overall going into Sunday. The day started off well, with a 5-2 defeat of No. 32 Swarthmore, but after this things went downhill. No. 16 Michigan, which would go on to win the whole tournament, sent UConn to the lower bracket with a 5-2 score, where the squad immediately ran into Brown and lost 0-5. After a narrow 4-5 loss to Rutgers, the Huskies stabilized to beat William and Mary 5-3 to claim 15th out of 35.
The Saturday explosion was amazing, but in reality the Huskies would have had to pull off two spectacular days in a row to continue the momentum. Either way, a 15th place finish is significantly better than the 32nd place finish UConn had in 2019. All three starters, along with alternate Adin Jennings, will be returning for next year, and there will be unfinished business to deal with.
For the first UConn competition since the last nationals, the Huskies fielded a full three-fencer squad, with A strip Alex Boutin being joined by B strip Sarah Pasqualetti and C strip Anna Thai. Pasqualetti, previously a foilist as an undergraduate, switched over right before this year’s NEIFC tournament, while Thai began fencing this semester. Despite its newness to the sport, the squad fought hard. In the Saturday event, Boutin won all of the Huskies’ bouts, going 5-3. This was good for a No. 25 seed out of 28.
On Sunday, No. 8 Northeastern sent the squad to the lower bracket with a 5-1 victory over the Huskies. In round two, UConn dispatched No. 24 Dartmouth 5-2. In the last three rounds, the Huskies lost to No. 17 Michigan State and No. 20 Rutgers, both 2-5, then barely lost to No. 18 Holyoke 4-5 to finish 24th.
Overall, this was also an improvement for the Huskies. Boutin performed very well throughout the tournament, while Pasqualetti and Thai outperformed expectations. Prior to nationals, Pasqualetti had only won three sabre bouts in prior competitions, while Thai won her first competitive bout. All three fencers are eligible for next year, so the positive trend should continue.
UConn’s highest rated fencer and 2021’s NEIFC Fall Invitational champion Alan Fotiyev looked to propel men’s sabre to glory this weekend, along with B strip Ruiwen Lin and C strip Nick Rossiter. On Saturday, Fotiyev went 10-1 and qualified for the individual round, while Lin won one bout and Rossiter took three. This performance had UConn seeded at No. 22 for Sunday, but before this could happen, Fotiyev had to compete in the individual stage, where he emerged on top to claim his second individual title for the Huskies.
On Sunday, UConn lost in the first round to No. 6 Northwestern 2-5, then defeated No. 27 Virginia in the second round 5-0. The rest of the day, the Huskies lost three consecutive close matches to No. 14 UT Dallas 5-3, No. 23 Dartmouth 5-2 and No. 24 Georgia Tech 5-3.
UConn has one more competition this season: A scrimmage at URI on April 24, which will feature teams like Smith, WPI, UMass and BU.