ITHACA, N.Y. – The Brandeis University fencing team saw three first-year competitors place within the top seven in their respective weapons at today's NCAA Northeast Regional at Cornell University, the final meet for qualification for the NCAA National Collegiate Fencing Championships in Detroit March 19-22.
"I am very proud of the all the Brandeis fencers who competed," said head coach Jennie Salmon. "They were outstanding representatives of the University and the fencing program. To have three of them make the final round in incredibly strong fields, including many top Division I schools, was a great accomplishment. Today, we realized a goal we set as a team when the season began, and it took months of focused, hard work together to achieve it."
Leading the way was the women's sabre squad, where rookie Jessica Morales (Wilmington, Mass./Wilmington) and classmate Maggie Shealy (Chapel Hill, N.C./Chapel Hill East) were seeded sixth and 14th headed into the regional championships. Both went 6-0 in the first round of competition to advance easily to the second round. Morales was tied for the top touch differential, known as the indicator, finishing plus-16, while Shealy was third at plus-11. Morales went 4-2 in the semifinal round with a plus-four indicator, picking up wins over St. John's, Yale, Sacred Heart and Brown to advance to the final round as the sixth seed, while Shealy earned the 11th of 12 spots in the finals after going 3-3 with a plus-one indicator. She bested foes from Cornell, Columbia and Yale to reach the final round.
The final round of 12 was evenly balanced, with the top three finishers going 8-3, followed by five more who went 6-5, including both Shealy and Morales. Shealy had plus-one indicator to finish in sixth place after defeating two opponents from Yale, two from Columbia – including the bronze medalist – one from Brown, and her teammate Morales. Morales was seventh in the pool with a zero indicator, scoring and receiving 42 touches. She earned wins over both Yale fencers, and one each from St. John's, Harvard, Columbia and MIT.
With their sixth- and seventh-place finishes, Shealy and Morales are likely to be named to NCAA Championship field, though the official announcement takes place on Tuesday. They would be the first Brandeis women to reach the NCAAs since Caroline Mattos '16 in 2014 did so in foil, and the first sabre fencers since Anna Hanley '11 in 2009. It would be the first time since 2002 that multiple Brandeis women went in the same year, when Tracy Marien '04 and Jessica Lewis-Turner '04 did so.
The Judges' other finalist came in men's epee, where 24th-seeded Ben Rogak (E. Setauket, N.Y./Ward-Melville) made it all the way to the final 12. Rogak went 4-2 in the opening round with a plus-nine indicator to make it to the semifinals in the seventh spot. In the semis, he went 4-2 again, posting wins over Harvard, NYU, Yale and Columbia with a plus-six indicator to claim the fifth seed in the finals. Like the women's sabre, the final round of 12 was extremely competitive, with all 12 fencers earning at least four wins in their 11 bouts, and none winning more than seven. Rogak was 5-6 with a minus-one indicator, earning wins against the eventual pool champion from Harvard and the bronze medalist from Hunter, as well as two NYU opponents and one from St. Johns. Rogak finished in sixth place, but based on his low seed entering the meet, it remains to be seen if it will be enough for him to become Brandeis's first men's epee fencer to reach nationals since 2011, when Alex Powell '11 went.
In other weapons, Brandeis's top finishers were junior Jared Sugarman (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale), 26th place, men's foil; sophomore Lucas Lin (Plano, Texas/Plano East), 29th, men's sabre; junior Jess Spear (Spofford, N.H./Keene), 30th place, women's epee; and senior Jessica Gets (Morganville, N.J./Freehold Township), 31st place, women's foil.