BY Dan Gardella
The Sacred Heart fencing team finished in second place at the January North American Cup. The team, which consisted of sophomore Tomas Koeck and alumni brothers Stuart and Andrew Holmes.
The trio was seeded second out of 23 teams according to Andrew Holmes, which earned them a first round bye in the competition. The team defeated New York University (NYU), SCAD-Atlanta, and the University of San Francisco “White” team to reach the final round. However, in the final match, the team would fall to the University of San Francisco “Red” team.
The tournament, which only lasts one day and goes from nine o’clock in the morning until five o’clock in the afternoon forced fencers to not only keep up their strategy throughout the day, but also stick together.
“It’s a grind,” said Holmes. “It’s a very long day, but the most important thing is that you have each other’s backs and work as a team.”
Although there is an age gap between the Holmes brothers and Koeck, they have known each other for around seven years. While Stuart and Andrew were in the fencing program at Sacred Heart, they trained at the Fairfield Fencing Academy due to its close proximity. There, they met Koeck, who was a student in the academy as well.
While the Holmes brothers taught Koeck, it also allowed the sophomore to learn from college fencers and begin to create a bond with them.
“Growing up, I always looked up to them,” said Koeck. “Stu and Andrew were especially successful at fencing, but they also showed good comradery and were good sportsmen. I’d always ask them for tips and talked with them.”
Koeck’s relationship with the brothers ultimately helped Koeck find his way to Sacred Heart. After being recruited by many other schools, he reached out to the Holmes brothers regarding Sacred Heart.
“I got in touch with Andrew and Stu and asked ‘Do you think Sacred Heart would be a good fit for me?’ and they said absolutely. I talked to Yury [Molchan] and he helped me with the process,” said Koeck.
The three had always wanted to take part in a team event together, but things would never materialize. However, the North American Cup provided an opportunity in which the stars would align and the three would compete as a team.
Regardless of the second place finish, Holmes takes pride in being able to represent Sacred Heart, even after graduating in 2015.
“It means a lot,” said Holmes. “I always said that the four years I spent at Sacred Heart were the best of my life, and the fencing team was a huge part of that. We had a lot of team and individual accolades when I was there, but it feels nice to still be able to contribute something to the school, even though Stu and I aren’t there anymore.”
For Koeck who continues to fence in season for the Pioneers, head fencing coach Yury Molchan believes that competing in a competition like the North American Cup boosts confidence as well as give the school more national notoriety.
“It’s very good for the team in terms of growing,” said Molchan. “When we are there, people can see the Sacred Heart logo. It certainly helps for the recruitment process as well as them getting to see me and how we work.”