Eight members of the women’s fencing team participated in the 2016 NCAA Regional Championships on Sunday at Vassar College. The team was led by junior foilist Juliet Hewes, who advanced to the third round of the tournament.
Six other team members — senior captain Alexandra Boden in saber, senior Julia Malleck in epee, junior Anna Gooch in epee, sophomore Nayab Ajaz in saber, sophomore Bridget Marturano in saber and sophomore Julia O’Gara in foil — all advanced to the second round of the tournament before bowing out. Junior Chandler Coble was the eighth Jumbo in action at the Regionals, participating in the epee, but she did not make it past the first round after going 2-2 in her bouts.
Gooch had high praise for Hewes after an impressive day.
“Juliet [Hewes] had an amazing day,” she said. “For her, the style of fencing changed each round, which is unusual, and it forced her to be able to adapt quickly. She really fought through the entire day, and she definitely didn’t let the strength of the competition bother her mentally.”
Hewes finished the day in 15th place in the foil. She won three of her bouts in the first round and was plus seven in touches. In the second round, she won twice and advanced despite being negative five in touches.
Boden gave another stand-out performance for the team, as the senior competed as a Jumbo for the last time her career. Although she might have not done as well as she may have hoped, she inspired her teammates.
“Alex Boden had a really tough fight throughout the day as well,” Gooch said. “Being a senior, she left everything she had on the strip. I know that she was disappointed with her result, but seeing her so passionate about the sport and the team was definitely an inspiration for us.”
Gooch herself turned in a strong performance on the day, finishing 28th overall in the epee. However, she was disappointed with her mental game.
“I’d say that I had a relatively simple first round – there wasn’t anything unusual,” she said. “But my problems hit me in the second round. I let the competitiveness of the other fencers get to me, and at that point, the fencing doesn’t matter anymore. I’m happy with how I fenced in the first round, but I let my emotions get the best of me in the second, which really hurt me.”
Gooch won three of her four bouts in the first round, finishing with a touch differential of plus six.
Malleck noted the significance of the team’s showing at the meet for the program.
“The NE Regional Championships is the most difficult qualifying competition for fencing in the U.S., given the high concentration of Div. I fencing schools in the region,” she said.
No Jumbos advanced far enough in the Regionals tournament to qualify for the NCAA Championships at Brandeis later this month, and the 2016 season comes to an end for the team. When asked to reflect on the season, team members emphasized the main focus of this season was on adapting to the changes that have occurred since last season.
“This season was one of growth and change for the team, having a new coach [Carlos Bruno] and athletics director [John Morris],” Malleck said.
“This season was absolutely a success,” Gooch said. “We started with a new coach and a lot of changes. Yes, we had some amazing fencing results, and we have some stuff that could be improved. But I think this was a learning season, and I can say that I’ve learned a lot about myself, my team and the sport this season.”
Looking forward to next season, Gooch and Coble will take over as captains as the program continues to build. The Jumbos, while excited about the future, know which areas they need to focus and improve on in order to build an even more successful program.
“I think that for next season, we’re still going to be working on our mentality,” Gooch said. “We need confidence as a team. Technical skills can be learned, but we need to work as a team to make those skills effective. We’re passionate people, and I think that we can let that show more in our fencing.”