On Sunday, the Tufts’ women’s fencing team ended its 2017–18 season at the NCAA Northeast Regionals. The Jumbos traveled a few miles to Brandeis’ Gosman Athletic Center in Waltham, Mass. to compete against fencers from all across the region.
The Northeast Regionals were different from most of the Jumbos’ other fencing meets this year. Athletes competed individually in each weapon category, and Tufts fencers got the chance to face opponents from several powerhouse Div. I programs with competitive recruiting, such as Harvard and Columbia. Needless to say, the competition was stiff.
The épée and sabre competitions began at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday. The Jumbos had just one fencer in the former weapon, as junior Annie Ayala went 1–3 in pool play, defeating Queens College junior Fatima Maryam. Harvard first-year Saanchi Kukadia won 17 of her 23 matches in the competition to finish in first place. St. John’s senior Veronika Zuikova and Columbia senior Katie Angen took home the silver and bronze medals, respectively.
Three Jumbos competed in the sabre event, including standout senior Bridget Marturano. Despite being seeded 30th going in, Marturano won 11 of her 23 matches, good enough for 11th place overall among the sabre fencers. The Malvern, Pa. native’s 11 wins were the most of any Jumbo at the regional tournament.
Marturano didn’t place higher than 11th because of her performance in the final round, in which she won only one of her 11 matches. Her lone victory in the round came against Vassar senior Annie Innes-Gold, who finished one spot behind Marturano in the final standings. According to Martuano, she tried to fence well and have fun, and she was pleasantly surprised when she found out that she had advanced to the final round of the event.
“That was a huge goal for me, but I had completely put the goal [of getting to the final round] out of my mind at that point,” Martuano said. “I’m so happy with my performance. I don’t think my season could have ended better.”
Marturano’s teammates in the sabre event could not make it out of the first round. Senior Nayab Ajaz won one of her four matches, defeating Long Island University Post first-year Danielle Haye. Ajaz finished the event in 40th place. Tufts sophomore Lucy Pavlovich could not manage a win in her first-round matches, resulting in a 46th-place finish.
The foil competition began an hour later at 9:30 a.m., with three more Tufts fencers competing. Senior co-captain Julia O’Gara failed to win a match in the first round, placing her 43rd overall. First-year Georgia Kollias won two of her four matches but failed to advance out of the first round and finished in 36th place.
Junior Zoe Howard came in seeded 37th and led the charge for the Jumbos, advancing to the third round and finishing 21st overall. The Weston, Conn. native won five total matches, despite facing a handful of tough opponents — including several fencers from a strong Columbia team. Howard was pleased with her performance on Sunday.
“Regionals is always a really difficult competition for the Tufts team,” Howard said. “We’re fencing Div. I schools that recruit competitively. I felt really good about the way I fenced. The 2016 Cadet World Champion [Columbia first-year Sylvie Binder] was there, and I got three touches on her, to her great annoyance. So that was a highlight of the day.”
Due to the way the competition was structured, Howard was the last Tufts fencer on the strip. Her teammates cheered her on during her third-round loss to Columbia sophomore Ester Schreiber.
The Northeast Regionals was the final meet of the 2017–18 season for Tufts. In the team competitions, the Jumbos won seven of their 20 matches. The team will graduate four seniors this year, many of whom have been key contributors: Marturano, Ajaz, O’Gara and co-captain Grace Tellado.
“I thought I was going to be so sad when my last fencing meet came,” Martuano said. “But I had such a great year. I accomplished every goal that I set for myself. I’m just so happy that I was able to have a good four years with such an awesome team.”
The senior class for next year will be relatively small, featuring just Ayala, Howard and junior Phoebe Yang. The former two have already been announced as the co-captains of next year’s squad. Howard noted that there will be big shoes to fill in the wake of her graduating teammates’ departures.
“Bridget is one of the most incredibly dedicated teammates that I have ever had,” Howard said. “Julia O’Gara, one of our captains this year, has been an amazing leader. The girls that we’re losing this year will be sorely missed.”