Bulldogs Head to NCAA Regionals

March 4, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Yale fencing team is spending the week training for the NCAA Regional Championships, to be held on Sunday at MIT's Johnson Athletic Center in Cambridge, Mass. At last year's competition, three Bulldogs qualified to advance to the NCAA Championships: foilists Nathaniel Botwinick and John Gurrieri, as well as epeeist Michael Pearce. As the primary determinant of qualifiers for the NCAA Championship, the NCAA Regional Championship will feature many universities from the entire Northeast Region, including several unfamiliar foes for the Bulldogs.

Fencers qualify to participate in the NCAA Regional Championship based on their record during the regular season. In order to qualify, a fencer needs to have fenced at least 21 bouts against at least nine different schools. Of all these regular season bouts, a fencer must have won at least 25 percent of them. A school in the Northeast Region may qualify any number of fencers, though it is only allowed to send up to three fencers per weapon to the competition, for a total of nine.

This season, more than the nine Yale fencers qualified for the Regional Championships, and the team had the luxury to choose which nine it would send to MIT for the competition. Of note is freshman Jonathan Holbrook, who would have gone to the competition had he not suffered a season-ending injury while practicing two weeks ago. As it stands, the final roster for the NCAA Regional competition is as follows:

Epee
Thomas Bell
Michael Pearce
Alexander Cohen

Sabre
Adam Fields
Sebastian Cano-Besquet
Stephen Watty

Foil
Nathaniel Botwinick
John Gurrieri
Shiv Kachru

Captain Michael Pearce noted that "With more fencers qualifying than in past years and a full roster of nine fencers going, Yale's presence will be one of the strongest and most complete in recent memory. It is the first time in over four years that the team has qualified and sent three saber fencers to regionals."

Including the nine Bulldogs, participating at the NCAA Northeast Region Championship, there will be 34 epeeists, 27 foilists, and 31 saberists. The fencers will initially be divided into groups of six or seven, after which they will compete in successive pools with elimination until a final group of twelve fencers is reached for each weapon class. The winner will then be determined from those final twelve fencers, after they compete in a round-robin of five touch bouts.

At last year's Regional Championships, Botwinick, Gurrieri and Pearce, who qualified to advance, finished eighth, fourth and second respectively. Meanwhile, senior Sebastian Cano-Besquet, who received All-Ivy Honors this year, finished 15th. At the NCAA National Championship, Pearce, Gurrieri and Botwinick finished 13th, 13th and 18th respectively.

"We are looking to not only repeat and build on the strong epee and foil performances of last year, but also add some more saber results this year," said Pearce.

Based on his Fencer's Seeding Factor, going into the tournament, Pearce is ranked fourth behind Misha Mokretsov and Stan Vaksman of St. John's and Harvard's Benji Ungar. The FSF is used to rank fencers going into regional competition and derives primarily from a fencer's winning percentage during the regular season as well as his opponents' power rating, which measures the strength of competitors based on past performances. The FSF along with results from the Regional Championship determine which fencers advance to the NCAA National Championship.

The team departs for Cambridge on Saturday afternoon, and the schedule of events for Sunday is as follows:

Schedule
Women's Foil 8:00 am
Women's Epee 8:00 am
Men's Epee 8:00 am
Men's Foil 9:45 am
Women's Saber 11:00 am
Men's Saber 12:00 pm

The NCAA fencing website can be found here.

Report Filed by Arsi Sefaj '11, Yale Sports Publicity