Eleven Brandeis fencers earn medals at The Big One to open season

Brandeis medalists from The Big One
Brandeis medalists from The Big One

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – The Brandeis University fencing team opened its 2021-22 campaign today at the New England Intercollegiate Fencing Conference Fall Tournament, better known as The Big One, at Vassar College. The Judges had quarterfinalists in all six weapon events, taking home one gold and two bronze medals, all from the saber squads.

Leading the way was junior Maggie Shealy (Chapel Hill, N.C./East Chapel Hill), who won the women's saber competition. Shealy went undefeated on the day, starting with a 6-0 performance in pool play, in which she out-touched her opponents 30-7 to earn the second seed in the direct elimination draw. After a first-round bye, she defeated an opponent from Sacred Heart, 15-3, in the second round and posted a 15-9 in the third round against a foe from Smith. In the quarterfinals, Shealy dispatched the seventh seed from Stonybrook, 15-8, then earned a spot in the finals by virtue of a walkover in the semifinals. She wrapped up her unbeaten tournament with a 15-11 win over top-seeded Kristen Palmer of MIT to earn gold. Rookie Kayla Turnoff (Westfield, N.J. / Kent Place School) also reached the quarterfinals, going 5-1 in pool play to earn the ninth seed. She cruised past a foe from Boston University, 15-1, in the second round and earned a 15-7 win over an MIT opponent in the round of 16 before falling to Palmer in the quarters.

For the men's saber squad, the Judges sent three fencer to the quarters and two to the semifinals. It was senior Lucas Lin (Plano, Texas / Plano West) who earned the team's best seed in the direct elimination – going 6-0 with a plus-30 indicator – it was a pair of first-time competitors in 12th-seeded sophomore Berwyn Lu (Atlanta, Ga. / Lovett School) and 19th-seeded rookie Tony Escueta (Grand Prairie, Texas / Abeka Home School Academy) who advanced the furthest. Lu went 5-1 in pool play, while Escueta was 4-1. For Lu, after a relatively quick 15-3 first round win over an opponent from BU, he had four straight bouts decided by five touches or fewer. He defeated an opponent from Dartmouth, 15-10, in the second round, then took out the fifth seed from Sacred Heart, 15-13, in the round of 16. Lu took out his second-straight higher seed in the quarterfinals by edging fourth-seeded Joshua Lo of Northeastern, 15-14, in the quarterfinals. Lu then pushed top-seeded Alan Fotiyev of UConn before falling, 15-13.

On the opposite side of the draw, Escueta opened with a 15-2 romp over a foe from Northeastern before going on to defeat three straight higher seeds. He had little trouble with the 14th seed from UConn in the second round, 15-4, then upset fellow first-year and third seed Joy Qiu (Guangzhou City, China / Roselle Catholic), 15-14, in the round of 16. Escueta reached the semis with a 15-9 win over sixth-seeded Mateo Villareal before bowing to seventh-seeded Aaron Lu of MIT, 15-4. Lu had eliminated Lucas Lin the quarters, 15-8.

The Judges added two quarterfinalists each in women's epee and men's foil, three of who whom were first-years. In women's epee action, rookies Bronwyn Rothman-Hall (San Francisco, Calif. / Ruth Asawa School of the Arts) and Calla Lee (Duluth, Ga. / Lambert) were seeded third and 25th, respectively, after going 5-0 and 3-2 in pool play, but both ended up in the final eight. Rothman-Hall got a bye into the second round, then trounced a foe from BU, 15-2, in her first elimination match. She edged a foe from Vassar, 15-13, in the round of 16, but was upset by the 11th seed from Smith, 15-6, in the quarters. Lee opened her elimination round with a 15-8 win over an opponent from Rhode Island, then upset her eighth-seeded teammate, junior Paula Thornton (Marietta, Ga. / Campbell) in the second, 15-12. Lee took down the ninth seed from Vassar, 15-7, before losing to top-seeded Jiayi Ruang of UMass in the quarters.

In the men's foil competition, sophomore Luke Ritchie (Baltimore, Md. / St. Paul's School) and junior Elliot Siegel (Newton, Conn. / Hopkins School) were the co-number one seeds after going 6-0 with a plus-25 indicator in pool play, but it was rookie Alexander Ma (Westford, Mass. / Westford Academy) who reached the final eight along with Siegel after Ritchie was upset by one of the eventual finalists in the round of 16. Ma, seeded sixth, defeated opponents from Rhode Island (15-1), Stonybrook (15-6) and Sacred Heart (15-10) before bowing out against the 14th seed from host Vassar, 15-9. Siegel had a first-round bye and posted wins over foes from Northeastern (15-5) and MIT (15-8) before getting upset by eventual champion Patrick Liu of MIT, 15-8.

In women's foil, first-year Alex McKee (Nyack, N.Y. / Nyack), fencing close to home, reached the final eight as the seventh seed, going 5-1 in pool play. In the direct elimination, after a first-round bye, she blew past an opponents from UConn (15-1) and Dartmouth (15-2) in her first two matches before falling to co-top-seeded Gracie Kim of Dartmouth, 15-14. It was Kim's closest match of the day as she won the women's foil competition.

The men's epee squad was represented in the final eight by senior Garrett Tordo (Framingham, Mass. / Framingham) after getting five of the final 16 fencers. Tordo, the 11th-seed by virtue of his 5-1 mark and plus-13 indicator, had a first-round bye before getting past opponents from Northeastern and Sacred Heart by identical 15-12 scores. Tordo dispatched the 27th-seed from BU, 15-7, in the round of 16 before dropping a 15-7 decision to a foe from UMass in the quarterfinals.

The Judges return to action next weekend when they head west to take part in the Western Invitational at the United States Air Force Academy.