Tufts overcomes injury woes to win three matches at Smith

Senior sabre fencer Nayab Ajaz parries a strike at the Northeast Fencing Conference Multi-Meet hosted by Boston College on Jan. 28. (Eddie Samuels / The Tufts Daily)

On Saturday, the Tufts women’s fencing team attended the second Northeast Fencing Conference Multi-Meet of the season, which took place at Smith College. After managing only one victory at the first meet, hosted by Boston College on Jan. 28, Tufts rebounded for a 3–3 record Saturday, picking up wins over Boston University, UMass and the University of New Hampshire.

The team started strong, picking up a pair of wins over BU and UMass to begin its day. The Jumbos first assembled a win over the Terriers, 17–8. Tufts’ foilists keyed the dominant scoreline, out-dueling their Terrier counterparts 7–2, as first-year Georgia Kollias swept her three matches, 5–0, 5–1, 5–3. Tufts also defeated its BU opponents in the épée and sabre competitions, albeit by smaller margins (4–3 and 6–3, respectively).

The foilists continued their success against UMass, not dropping a single bout to their opponents and never allowing an opposing foilist to score more than three touches. The épéeists struggled, however, falling 8–1 to the Minutewomen squad, but suffered an even bigger blow in losing sophomore Brie Gates, who rolled her ankle while lunging in the match. Nonetheless, the Tufts sabre fencers pulled out a clutch performance, winning 7–2 to secure a 17–10 victory over UMass.

Senior sabre fencer Bridget Marturano explained that the injury put an already-weakened épée squad at a further disadvantage.

“We had an absent member, and then in our second round, one of the other épée fencers got injured and couldn’t fence for the remaining four rounds,” Marturano said. “[Junior] Annie Ayala did a spectacular job of staying positive and fenced beautifully despite being the only épée fencer for four of the six rounds.”

Marturano also explained the additional challenges that arose after the injury.

“It can be really hard when you don’t have your other squad mates fencing, but we all made sure to watch and cheer for her between our own bouts when we could,” Marturano said. “[Senior co-captain] Grace Tellado was an incredibly supportive force as a strip coach for the épéeists throughout the day.”

The Jumbos were forced to fence the rest of the day at a substantial disadvantage, automatically forfeiting six points from the épée portion due to their missing fencers. The challenging turn of events forced the other squads to step up, as the team still managed a hard-fought win over UNH later that day, after losses to Smith and Sacred Heart.

In the UNH match, Ayala — still fighting solo — managed to win all three of her bouts, 4–1, 5–3, 5–0. Coupled with 8–1 and 7–2 showings from the foil and sabre squads, respectively, the Jumbos handily won the match, 18–9. Both Kollias and junior Zoe Howard rolled to perfect 3–0 records against their Wildcat opponents in the foil competition, while Marturano and senior Nayab Ajaz did the same in the sabre portion.

Though Tufts suffered losses to Smith (17–10), Sacred Heart (17–10) and Wellesley (18–9), a large part of the score discrepancies can be attributed to the lack of two-thirds of its épée squad. All told, the foil squad was the star of the day for the Jumbos, as the group only lost one match, the final one of the day, to the Wellesley Blue. The foilists assembled a combined record of 37–17, winning over 68 percent of their bouts.

“Last time in the Northeastern Fencing Conference, our young team members had little match experience … but after that multi-meet event, many of them gained valuable experience,” coach David Sach said. “We saw first-year Georgia Kollias had several three-wins and two-wins rounds, and I’m really happy to see these talented members of the team start to become better and better.”

Sach also explained that Marturano and Howard have secured spots at the NCAA Regional Championships, which take place March 10 at Brandeis. The Jumbos are next in action, however, at the New England Intercollegiate Fencing Conference (NEIFC) Championships on Feb. 24 at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass.