Six fencers from Sacred Heart University competed at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships. The events were held at Pennsylvania State University’s campus from March 25-28.
During the 2013-2014 season, Sacred Heart sent five fencers to the championships. This year’s squad broke records for the program.
“This is the first time Sacred Heart ever had six fencers [selected]to the NCAA championships,” said junior Tia Petrides. “It was such an amazing experience to represent Sacred Heart.”
Seniors Troy Kapitzke and Cameron Silver, freshmen Domenic Bartolo and Vijay Ganta, and sophomores Lawrence Tan and Tia Petrides qualified for the championships. The men’s fencing team finished 10th with the overall team finishing 13th out of 19.
Silver finished 10th amongst epee fencers, earning All-American honors. To be selected for the award, you have had to finish top 12 in the tournament for an event.
“I was at the Pitt every day for four hours a day at least,” said Silver. “I feel like I really got out what I put in.”
The sport is divided into three events: foil, epee and sabre. Each has their own weapon and rules for engaging an opponent.
“Foil and sabre use this thing called right of way,” said Silver. “Let’s say you have a four way stop at a stop sign, the first person to pull up to the stop sign has the right of way. So, if you have two [fencers]and they hit [strike], both lights go off.”
The foil and epee blades have a little button on the tip that takes a certain amount of pressure before a light goes off, indicating who made contact. For foil and sabre, if both lights go off, the point is rewarded at the discretion of the referee.
“The person who initiated the attack first even if both fencers hit at the same time is the person who gets the touch [point].” said Silver.
With sabre, you can strike with any part of the blade in a slashing motion, as opposed to strictly poking with foil or epee. Each event also has rules for where a fencer can strike.
“For foil, the target area is just the torso, and for sabre, it’s the waist up,” said Silver. “With epee, you pretty much don’t have rules of engagement. If both people hit, both people get the touch. The target area is anywhere.”
The three events require different physical demands.
“With foil and epee, it’s more technical with a lot more blade work,” said freshman sabre Bartolo. “In sabre, you’re working more on cardio, explosiveness and how fast you can go.”
To qualify, a fencer needs at least 10 bouts and a 40% win ratio. Selection is also determined through power ranking, which represents performance against quality competition.
“If you beat someone who’s really good, your power ranking goes up more than if you beat someone that is not so good,” said Silver. “24 people in total go, the top five fencers from the Northeast [region]from the power ranking got to go to the NCAAs, but you can only send two people per [event]per school.”
The pioneers scored 43 points overall with 23 in epee, 12 in sabre and eight in the foil.
Tan’s praises go beyond the qualified fencers.
“I feel like not only the six of us that went, but the entire team, has improved,” said Tan. “It took the team as a whole to work toward this goal, and [we]made history sending six fencers to championships, even through a pandemic.”
Coach Yury Molchan recognized the challenge of repeating history next year.
“It will be difficult next season, but I think it’s possible,” said Molchan.