The women’s fencing team had a successful meet on Saturday, defeating five different teams at the third Northeast Fencing Conference meet of the season, hosted by Smith College. Tufts beat Wellesley University 18-9, Boston University (BU) 24-3, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) 23-4, the University of Massachusetts (UMass) 17-10 and Smith College 18-9. The only setback Tufts suffered on the day was an 18-9 loss to Sacred Heart University. The meet was in direct contrast to the Jumbos’ last multi-meet on Jan. 23, when the team went 1-5 at Boston College.
With the exception of the match against Sacred Heart, where Tufts only won one of the three contests, the team was fairly dominant, winning 15 of the total 18 weapons contests on the day. The Jumbos relied on no single style of fencing to win on Saturday, taking multiple wins in every weapon category and posting overall winning records across the six matches, with a result of 41-13 in the sabre, 37-17 in the epee and 32-22 in the foil.
In an impressive showing in the sabre, Tufts swept all nine points in the matches against BU, UMass and UNH. Almost as impressive, the team took eight of the nine points in the epee in the Smith and BU matches.
Even in the single disappointment against the Sacred Heart Pioneers, the Jumbos still managed to win in the foil, refusing to get shut out in any match of the day in a clear improvement over the previous conference meet.
“One of the main reasons we struggled with Sacred Heart is because we lost the confidence we had with the less competitive schools,” junior Anna Gooch said. “Our fencing is not worse than theirs; we just have to go into it with the mentality that we can win.”
Despite the loss, junior Juliet Hewes was a rock for the Jumbos all day long in the foil, going 12-0 overall even as her team struggled against Sacred Heart.
“Hewes was undefeated all day,” Gooch said. “She fenced amazingly, and that really helped carry the team.”
Gooch herself was likewise impressive, posting a 12-3 mark in the epee to lead Tufts in that weapon.
“I think we did a very good job of keeping up our energy throughout the day,” Head Captain Alex Boden said. “We didn’t give up any touches, we fought hard for every point and it definitely showed.”
Leading the team’s dominant sabre fencers, Boden, a senior, won 12 of her 15 points in the sabre. The sabre has been one of Tufts’ leading weapons this season,
“I think we were definitely a lot more driven this meet,” Boden said. “Last meet, even though it doesn’t show in the meet records, there were so many individual bouts that came close but were lost by one point. Against Brown, the foil squad alone had six or seven bouts that were lost 4-5. Those points make a huge difference in the outcome of a meet, and for this weekend we decided that losing by that kind of a margin was unacceptable. With the exception of Sacred Heart, we didn’t think about over- or underestimating our opponent schools—we just went in with the intention to fence them as hard as we could and not pay attention to the score. That turned those 4-5 bouts into 5-0, 5-1, and 5-2 victories.”
Gooch agreed, saying the team tried to learn from the past meets.
“I think the team did so well because we were confident going into the day,” Gooch said. “It was an early start, but we managed to not let fatigue get in the way, which is what has happened in the past.”
Beyond Boden, Gooch and Hewes, who have been the most consistent point scorers in their respective weapons categories so far this season, the Jumbos also received meaningful points from their rookie class. First-year Annie Ayala, one of the starting epee users, was the object of many of her teammates’ praise.
“Ayala did very well this weekend and completed a very strong starting epee squad, along with Gooch and Anne Oursler, for the day,” Boden said.
Both Boden and Gooch insisted that, while their team still faced a number of larger, better-funded schools with more established fencing programs, which led to the team’s disappointing results at their Jan. 23 conference meet, that fact did not matter this weekend.
“I think our biggest strength is that we are always together; we are like a family, and we always fight together, regardless of our opponent,” Gooch said.
Boden added that the effort the team members had put in this semester made this win possible.
“The team has put more hours of fencing into pre-season and in-season practices than in previous years and our hard word definitely shows,” Boden said. “A lot of the girls go to extra practices at other fencing clubs and that kind of experience and dedication to training definitely pays off.”
With the championship season approaching, starting with the Northeast Intercollegiate Fencing Conference Championships at Wellesley on Feb. 20, the team plans to bear down and switch into a postseason mindset in preparation.
“We’re really focusing on having a more dominant presence on the strip and keeping that momentum going,” Boden said. “We’ve been practicing every day during the week and many of the starters will be training with other fencers at a club off-campus for extra experience and more diverse practices.”
With this kind of preparation, Gooch believes that the team will be prepared for the challenge that the championships will present.
“Championship season is always a little different, especially because the format of the tournaments is different than the other meets,” Gooch said. “This is the end of the season, so we know that we have to put everything we have into the last two meets. We’ve been talking a lot about our mentality going into these meets, so I think we are ready to end the season on a high note.”