Fencers old and new stand out at individual event

The Swarthmore fencing team practiced their moves on Tuesday, November 8. (Simone Forrester/The Phoenix)

At an event this weekend at Temple University, coach Marshal Davis got the chance to see what the individual members of the Swarthmore fencing team could do against a range of competition. Davis was not disappointed.

“We just graduated twelve of eighteen starts last year,” Davis said. “The team is very young right now. But we have a great [first-year] class, and a lot of them succeeded [this past weekend].”

The event was the Temple Open, an individual event held on Temple’s campus this past Saturday and Sunday, which pits players from competing teams against each other based on the weapon they use, whether it be foil, epee, or sabre. The results do not count toward team competition.

“I was pleasantly surprised by how Swat did, especially our [first-years],” co-captain epeeist Morgan Sulerzyski ’12 said. “Though most of them had no experience fencing prior to college, more than half of them made it past the cut into the direct elimination round.”

The Open consisted of roughly 30 teams ranging from Division I to DivisionIII, to which Swarthmore belongs.

Teams who participated included the University of North Carolina, Clemson University, University of Virginia, New York University, Haverford, the University of Pennsylvania and Temple.

Although there was little pressure on the team to post a good result, Swarthmore saw its members excel across the board. Co-captain Kevin Buczkowski ’13 cited the team’s relaxed mindset as one of the reasons for success.

“[Coach Davis] made sure that it was a no-pressure event for us, unlike our team events, and he just told us to have fun and do well,” Buczkowski said.

Participating fencers must go through two rounds in order to qualify for direct elimination (DE) bouts. Once there, play functions as a sudden-death elimination tournament.

Several members of the team, particularly from the first-year class, exceeded expectations by reaching the direct elimination level.

A standout among the first-years was sabreist Catherine Martlin ’15, who defeated an opponent in a direct elimination contest.

“I was really excited and really nervous,” Martlin said. “The best parts of the tournament had to be near the end of each day’s fencing, once we had reached the direct elimination rounds. By that point there were only a few of our fencers still in rounds and the way that it worked out most of the team ended up watching one fencer finish their bouts.”

“A large number of fencers from the Swat team did well in their first pools and made it to the DE rounds,” club president and epeeist Valentina Garcia ’14 said in an email. “Despite having woken up at 5 a.m., everyone was so enthusiastic while watching the handful of Swat fencers who made it past the first round of DEs.”

It was Buczkowski who made the furthest run in the tournament, outlasting a tough opponent only to fall in the fourth round of direct elimination.

“I went 3-1 in the first round of pools, and 4-0 in the second round. Going into direct elimination play I was seeded 15th out of 100 sabre fencers,” Buczkowski said. “I got a bye in the first round of DEs, in the second round I beat the 50th seed. In the third round I fenced a really good player from Cornell, who I beat 15-14.”

In the fourth round, I faced the number two seed overall from UNC. He beat me 15-14, one point. I would have made it to the top eight.”
Buczkowski finished 14th overall.

The women’s fencing team will have a tournament in early December hosted by the National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association.

The next team event will be held at Air Force Academy in early January. With the exception of Swarthmore and University of Florida, the event will consist entirely of Division I fencing programs.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how our team will perform as we face varsity competition at Air Force over winter break,” Sulerzyski said. “Our team is young but full of potential.”

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