Fencing faces stiff competition at Brown University

Senior épéeist Annie Alaya lunges at an opponent at the Northeast Fencing Conference Multi-Meet hosted by Boston College on Jan. 28, 2018. Eddie Samuels / The Tufts Daily Archives


The Jumbos’ season resumed on the road with its first event in 2019, the Northeast Fencing Conference multi-meet held at Brown University last Saturday. Tufts competed against six teams, including Dartmouth, Vassar, Brandeis, MIT, Boston College and Brown. The Jumbos started off strong with an 19–8 win over the Big Green but fell to the swords of its opponents in the following five meets.

In their opening meet, the Jumbos went 9–0 in foils and 6–3 in sabre bout but lost in the épée category with a score of 5–4. Senior captain Zoe Howard, sophomore Georgia Kollias and first-year Allison Cheng all went undefeated in foil. First-year Dorothy Waskow, sophomore Subin Jeong and junior Elliot Pavlovich won six of the nine sabre bouts for the Jumbos. Despite missing an injured squad member and having to forfeit three bouts, senior captain Annie Ayala and first-year Hannah Fruitman only fell short by one bout in their 5–4 loss in épée.

“For épée, we only had two-thirds of our squad fencing,” Ayala said. “Our third member was out with an injury, yet she still showed up to cheer us on and support our team. We had to forfeit three of our bouts. We may have lost overall, but between the two of us, we were fencing really well and giving it our all.”

Jeong’s success was an impressive feat considering this multi-meet was her first ever major competition in the sport.

“[Jeong] is new on the team and she has never really fenced before,” Howard said. “This was her first big competition, and she did really, really well for someone who is new to the sport.”

Following their victorious first match, Tufts faced Vassar. The Jumbos battled for the sabre in a nail-biting 5–4 win and just missed the foil by a single bout, but Vassar barreled through Tufts’ épéeists, winning 8–1 and defeating Tufts by an overall score of 17–10. Pavlovich put on a clean performance for the Jumbos in sabre, winning all three bouts and clinching the 5–4 win.

Brandeis beat Tufts 15–12 in the third round of the multi-meet. Howard swept through foil yet again with two assisting wins from newcomer Cheng to grab the 5–4 win. Jeong and Pavlovich continued their momentum with two wins apiece in sabre for another 5–4 win. However, the Jumbos had shortcomings in épée yet again with a loss of 7–2. Cheng surprised the team with her skill in her first major competition.

“We have a lot of new recruits to our team and the freshmen have been doing very well,” Ayala said. “One of our foilists, [Cheng], is participating in major competition for the first time and is really shining through.”

Cheng further cemented her prominent role on the team with a commanding performance in foil against MIT, leading Tufts to a 6–3 win. But the Jumbos were not able to come up with the épée or sabre bouts, falling 17–10 to the Engineers.  

For their final two rounds at Brown, Tufts fell by larger margins — Boston College and Brown both beat Tufts  22–5. Though these losses stung, the Jumbos knew these two teams were their biggest competition going into the multi-meet.

“A lot of schools that we were fencing at the meet are very experienced, especially Brown and Boston College,” Ayala said. “They are notorious for having great fencing teams and we learned a lot from our matches against them.”

As the team begins their 2018–2019 season in earnest, they are looking to improve their technique and figure out strategies to lead them to success with so many fencers out due to injury.

“We always improve as the season goes on,” Howard said. “This was one of our rustier meets, but it was our first meet back and we had a long and hard lineup. It’s really frustrating right now because we have a lot of people down on the team and we have to forfeit points, but everyone is doing very well and I think it’s only up from here.”

Co-captains Ayala and Howard believe much of the team’s strength comes from how supportive they are of each other, despite a negative outcome.

“This sport is a marathon, not a sprint,” Ayala said. “It is difficult to keep energy up, but as a whole this team is great at supporting each other and great at making sure we don’t get in a bad head space. We have fun with it through thick and thin.”

The Jumbos compete next Saturday, Feb. 9,  at the Carzo Cage in a second Northeast Conference Multi-Meet.