Last weekend, the UConn Fencing Club hosted the first tournament of its young season at the Hawley Armory, officially nameless but known by many as “The Small One.” This event is just one of two for the Huskies this semester. “The Big One,” which also is known as the NEIFC Fall Invitational, occurs in just two weeks.
“The Small One” hosted clubs from visiting schools UMass, Smith, URI and WPI. The tournament was set up in three sets of round robin pools of about seven fencers for each of the three disciplines: foil, sabre and épée. For the first round of each discipline, fencers were randomly seeded into the first round, with men and women combined. For the second round, men and women were separated into their own randomized pools. For the third and final round, seeding was based on combined records from the first two rounds, with the top pool serving as the championship and the rest as consolation matches.
At the end of the three sets of pools, winners were announced in a top-three format for both men’s and women’s, with the championship winners considered first. If there weren’t enough men or women to fill the top three spots from the championship pool, honors were given to the victors of the first consolation pool.
For those who are unfamiliar with fencing, the three disciplines are separated by minor differences. Épée, perhaps the most common, uses a sword with a large bell and a cylindrical button at the tip. Points are scored when the button makes contact with any part of the body. Foil, the second-most common, utilizes a sword with a smaller bell and a button at the tip. In foil, points are scored on a hit to the torso region only. It is worth noting that both épée and foil have a timer of three minutes if neither competitor reaches five points by then. Both of these disciplines had five pools for each, since they are the most common.
Sabre, the fastest of the three, needs no timer. The blade has a curved bell on its side with no button on the tip, which allows fencers to earn points from the tip or any other part of the sword. In order to count, hits must occur above the waist except for the hands, which includes the head of opponents. There were just three total pools for each round of sabre events.
The Huskies excelled in the foil tournament, with Xavier Braun and Phil Nicopoulos taking first and second place for the men’s division, respectively. In the championship pool, Braun improved upon his cumulative .900 win ratio, winning each of his final six bouts. Over that span, he tallied 30 total touches, while only receiving 10.
Also performing well for the Huskies was Kathryn Atkinson, who placed on the foil podium for the women’s division, making her way into the championship pool thanks to an .800 win ratio in her first two rounds alongside an impressive indicator (touches minus touches received). While she didn’t get the result she was looking for, Atkinson still managed to finish in third in the women’s division, seventh overall.
Connecticut took home another top-two sweep in the épée tournament, with Adin Jennings and Ed Russell finishing in first and second overall, respectively. Jennings, a USFA-ranked D fencer, finished above higher-ranked competitors like Russell, a C fencer, and Seth Wyatt of UMass, a B fencer. When mentioning rankings, note that they are only accumulated at United States Fencing Association events, not tournaments like “The Small One” or even NCAA events. Jennings took home five victories in the final pool, although his matchups were much closer than Braun’s, as his indicator was just eight in the championship.
As successful as UConn was in both foil and épée, sabre was a different conversation. In UMass’ first time attending “The Small One,” the program performed well, with Conrad Chew taking home the top spot overall in sabre. The top Husky was Nick Rossiter, winning half of his matches in the first two pools before winning the first consolation pool with a 0.8 win ratio and an indicator of three. He finished ranked seventh overall.
The injury bug struck the tournament hard on Saturday, when one URI fencer dislocated his knee. The two main modes of movement for fencers are the advance and retreat methods, and the competitor fell back in retreat the wrong way, popping out his kneecap. It was described by one fencer there as “the worst injury I have ever seen in fencing,” but it is worth noting that the injured Ram will be okay.
While this weekend was filled with just club teams, “The Big One” plays host to a healthy mix of both clubs and NCAA programs with many more schools represented, hence the tournament’s unofficial title. The NEIFC Fall Invitational kicks off in just two weeks, and the Huskies look to take what they’ve learned in this tournament to the next stage of their season.
“We always go into this tournament wanting to give ourselves examples of what we need to improve on, and I think a lot of people found that on Saturday,” said Sam Zelin, President of the UConn Fencing Team. “We are going into ‘The Big One’ with a bunch of new fencers this year, a lot of freshmen joined the team, a lot of people that are coming to fencing later in their college careers. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do at ‘The Big One.’”