Fencing team successful at NEIFC Championships

Julia Malleck (epee) scoring a very clear touch at the Smith College multi-meet on Saturday, Feb. 6. Zoe Howard via Tufts University Women's Fencing Facebook

The women’s fencing team had a successful meet on Saturday, coming in fourth place out of 13 teams at the New England Intercollegiate Fencing Conference (NEIFC) Championships, behind winners Boston College, runner-up Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and third-place Brandeis University.

The championships — a different kind of challenge from the head-to-head matchups the Jumbos have been used to this season — allowed for only the team’s best fencers to compete in an intense, tournament-style meet. Despite this, the Jumbos battled through a long day with saber squad placing third while the epee and foil squads both came in fifth.

Nine Jumbos competed on Saturday, with a squad of three competing in each of the three weapons categories. 

Junior Anna Gooch explained that this meet was different in that each fencer was designated the A, B or C fencer in his or her weapon category — foil, epee or saber — and fencers only competed against others within their respective division. After a round robin within each division, the top six A fencers, top four B fencers and top two C fencers advanced to the direct elimination round of 15 bouts, with the competitors divided into two pools of six within each A, B or C division.

Gooch earned the team’s highest place finish on the day, taking second in the epee B category. Leading the team’s strongest overall weapons category, the saber, was senior captain Alexandra Boden, who came in fifth as the team’s A division saber competitor. Sophomore Bridget Marturano came in fifth for the B saber and sophomore Nayab Ajaz came in third in the saber C division.

Boden was one of four Tufts athletes who made it to the elimination rounds. Junior Juliet Hewes, who came in fourth in the A foil, first-year Zoe Howard, who came in third in the women’s B foil and Gooch, who came in second in the women’s B epee, also advanced. All four girls lost in the elimination rounds.

Among the other Jumbos who were unable to advance to the elimination round were senior foil captain Laura Coughlin, who came in sixth in the women’s C foil, senior Julia Malleck, who came in tenth in the women’s A epee and junior Chandler Coble, who came in fifth place in the women’s C epee.

The tournament nature of the meet meant that the nine Jumbos who fenced on Saturday were in constant competition, without much rest.

“For each squad, only three fencers can compete, and while substitutions are allowed, we try to avoid them because it prevents either fencer from moving on to the next round,” Gooch said. “So we had nine women fencing, with one alternate per squad.”

Gooch acknowledged Boden for her strong leadership as team captain and for all the hard work she has put in this season and her phenomenal performance.

“Senior Alexandra Boden certainly deserves a shoutout,” Gooch said. “She was one of four fencers who made it to the direct elimination round, and her last bout was one of the toughest fights I’ve seen. She left everything she had on the strip, which shows not only how great of a fencer she is but also how dedicated she is to this team.”

When asked about herself, Gooch humbly gave credit to her teammates.

“My result this weekend was the best result I’ve had since coming to Tufts, and while I am happy with my individual place, I think my success is a direct reflection of my relationship with the team,” she said. “Without their support both throughout the season and during this tournament, I never could have achieved anything close to this. Perhaps even more satisfying than winning my last bout was turning around and seeing my teammates cheering for me.”

Boden echoed Gooch’s sentiments about the tight-knit nature of the team.

“When I lost my [direct elimination] bout, immediately after I shook my opponent’s hand, the entire team rushed on strip and hugged me,” Boden said. “And even though I was sad and disappointed from the loss, it was still the most meaningful moment I’ve had at Tufts. We’re a team, and I think that moment epitomizes how much we love each other and how strong we are together.”

The meet may have been Boden’s last competition ever, and the senior is pleased with her performance to cap off her career.

“I think this was my strongest meet all season,” Boden said. “I usually stay level-headed and calm at competitions, but this time, maybe since I knew it was my last team competition of my career, I was definitely more passionate and intense and it felt great.”

The Jumbos now shift into preparing for their final meet of the season and their biggest challenge in the form of the NCAA Regional Championships at Vassar on March 13.