Smith Fencing Team Takes Second at National Championships
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 20:04
The Smith College Fencing Club, known as Hell’s Belles completed its 2011-2012 competitive season with a stellar second place victory at the United States Association of Collegiate Fencing Clubs National Championships in Hartford, Conn.
With 40 teams competing in this year’s USACFC tournament, their National Championship is the largest collegiate fencing tournament in the world. The Belles’ second place finish is the best in the history of the team, and required two days of grueling competition in sabre, foil and épée, as the overall team champions were determined by the results of the three squad events.
The structure of the tournament was similar to several other tournaments the Belles competed in this season. On the first day, each squad competed in an initial pool of ten teams. The members of the starting squads were ranked as the A fencer, B fencer and C fencer. Each fencer then competed in bouts within her pools.
The initial pools are crucial in determining the seeding for the elimination brackets of the team tournament, and the top fencers from the pools qualify for the individual championships.
The Belles’ sabre squad dominated their pool, qualifying all three starters Julea Vlassakis ’12, Stephanie Fincher ’12 and Emily Willette ’13 for the individual championships and securing a first place seed going into the second day of the tournament.
The young foil squad, consisting of Emma Johnson-Rivard ’15, Naomi Long ’15 and Janelle Gagnon ’15 also excelled in pools, earning a third place seed for the team brackets. For her performance as top C fencer in her pool, Gagnon also qualified for individuals.
The real excitement came during the team bracket rounds on day two, as all three squads competed fiercely for their shot at a national title.
In order to advance during day two, each squad of three Belles had to face all three fencers on the opposing squads, totaling nine bouts per round. The first squad to win five of those bouts was the victor. After struggling in pools, the épée team of Maria Orlic ’15, Lindsay White ’15, Andra McKeever ’15 and Lydia Lovett-Dietrich ’14 clawed back from a 22nd place seed by upsetting the 11th place seed Swarthmore College. Several stalwart rounds later, including a suspenseful 5-4 win over Mount Holyoke College, the squad finished in 10th place.
The sabre squad overcame two teams that have eliminated them from the winner’s bracket in the past few years, beating the University of Florida 5-2 and Michigan State University 5-3 on their way to a second place finish behind Rutgers University. Both the sabre squad and foil squad benefitted from their respective alternates Nicole Mauri ’14 and Sage Brown ’13, who won bouts during day two, and from the support of fellow teammates Haleemah Jackson ’14, Isabelle Smith-Bove ’14 and assistant coaches Mia Leinberger ’11 and Phoebe Camiletti ’11.
Finally, the foil squad soundly beat the U.S. Naval Academy, University of Virginia and local rivals the University of New Hampshire to earn their second place trophy after a heart-pounding 4-5 loss to the University of Florida team. Their success helped the Belles take second place in the Women’s Team Overall Championship, behind the winners from the University of Florida.
Hell’s Belles hope to build upon the success of this year’s team in the coming seasons. Considering that all of the foil and épée starters at Nationals were first-years, the team has excellent prospects going forward. Furthermore, Coach Scott Tundermann is hopeful that the team will be able to hire assistant coaches to work with each squad and to attract experienced fencers to Smith’s incoming classes.
For now, though, the team is enjoying the glory of a second place national title.