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Fencing sweeps field in season opener

Both the men’s and women’s fencing teams swept their first official conference meet of the season Saturday, with the men taking 88 of 108 bouts for a 4-0 record and the women winning 106 out of 135 total, going 5-0.

The women’s team beat Wellesley College 23-4, the University of Massachusetts 22-5, the University of New Hampshire 23-4, Boston University 24-3 and Sacred Heart University 14-13. The team was carried by the saber squad, led by Caitlin Taylor ’14 and Christine Whalen ’15, who both posted 8-0 records for the meet.

Foil fencers Audrey Lee ’16 and women’s captain Kathryn Hawrot ’14 finished with records of 8-1 and 10-0, respectively. Yoojin Cha ’16 and Laney Caldwell ’14 combined for 17 wins for the epee squad.

On the men’s side, saber again led the way, with Alex Palabrica ’17 and Denis Dukhvalov ’16 dominating the opposition with 12-0 and 11-1 marks. Simon Jones ’16 and James Yoon ’17 headed the epee squad, and men’s co-captain Barrett Weiss ’15 fenced well in the foil division.

The men’s team defeated its first three opponents handily, trouncing UMass 26-1, UNH 25-2 and BU 22-5.

“The team really showed up this weekend,” Dukhvalov said. “It looks like this year the team is going to be really strong,” adding that he thinks the team could win its conference and fare better against other Ivies.

“I felt a little inconsistent early on,” Weiss said. “As the season goes on, I’ll become more consistent, and I thought that when I got on a roll, I was fencing very well.”

After coasting through the three opening matches, the men’s team turned to the main attraction of the afternoon: Sacred Heart. The Pioneers topped the Bears each of the past four years by the same narrow margin of a single bout.

“They’re one of the best teams in the NFC,” Dukhvalov said. “Brown has a very well-rounded team, so when we fence other schools, we can usually pick up all the bouts in one of their weaker weapons.”

But Sacred Heart doesn’t have a clear weakness, Dukhvalov added. “Each squad has to be on their game and win as many bouts as possible, because the score is always close.”

After a number of grueling contests, the men took down Sacred Heart, ultimately finishing the match out ahead with a tally of 15-12.

“It sets the stage for the rest of the season to be a good one,” Weiss said. “The loss last year was heartbreaking, so it felt so good to finally beat them.”

Alex Palabrica ’17 contributed significantly in his first official college tournament. “He’s a great addition to the team,” Dukhvalov said. “We lost a senior saber fencer who was very strong, so it is nice to have someone come in and try to fill the void.”

Players also attributed some of their early success to new Assistant Coach Ervin Szucs.

“Our head coach’s strength is saber, and while he’s good at all the weapons, our assistant coach is more oriented toward foil and epee,” Weiss said. “Our team is going to be extremely well-rounded because of him.”

The team will have time off before traveling to Waltham, Mass., to compete in the Brandeis Invitational Dec. 8.