Providence, RI—Brown Fencing kicks off its season this weekend with the Big One, an annual meet held at Smith College that attracts teams from all around the northeast. The Bears have been gearing up for the 2012-2013 season since mid-September, partaking in daily practices and weekly lifts at the brand new Zucconi Varsity Strength and Conditioning Center. Brown is coming off of a strong finish in 2011-2012, as they sent six fencers, the most in the program's history, to the NCAA National Championships at Ohio State.
Last November, the Bears took home 12 medals from the Big One, including three gold. Eight of those medal winners will be returning to Northampton this weekend to defend their titles. Barrett Weiss (Barrington, RI) won a gold in the men's foil, as did senior captain Cory Abbe (Scappoose, OR) in the women's epee.
"The Big One is a really good meet because it gives the first years a moment to see who else is in our region," Abbe said. "Our first NCAA meet is in two weeks, so we want to get used to who we're going to fence and get everyone back into competition mode."
There is, according to Abbe, "a really good batch" of first-year fencers joining the squad. Men's epee is gaining Harry Caulfield (Cramerton, NC) and Simon Jones (Louisville, CO), while the women's team picks up Yoojin Cha (Seoul, Korea). Lauren Altman (New City, NY) and Stephanie Hojsak (Tenafly, NJ), as well as Denis Duhvalov (Salisbury Mills, NY) are new additions to the saber squads. Tucker Iverson (Basking Ridge, NJ) and Kyle Kennedy (Wall, NJ) join men's foil, while Audrey Lee (Upper Saddle River, NJ) and Tamsin Board (Cambridge, MA) join the women's team.
"We have a lot of great new team members and really promising lineups on every squad," said junior saber fencer Christina Johantgen (Garrison, NY).
The Bears have a busy schedule ahead of them, with their first NCAA meet on Saturday, November 17 and the Brandeis Invitational on Sunday, December 2. After winter break, the fencers return to Brown for a home meet on Saturday, January 26 and the Eric Sollee Invitational at MIT on February 3. The Ivy League Championships immediately follow on February 9, and then it's on to Regionals on March 10 and the NCAA Championships from March 21 to 24.
Brown finished the 2011-2012 season in a tie with Sacred Heart for first place in the Northeast Fencing Conference (NFC). The team hopes to become the sole owner of the NFC championship title, as well as put up strong performances at Ivy's and Nationals.
One of the team's goals, said sophomore foilist Hannah Kolus (Burbank, CA), is to "keep the momentum going from last year and continue improving, especially at Ivy's." As for personal goals, Kolus hopes to overcome some of the psychological challenges of fencing. "In a sport that requires so much thinking and commitment to actions, those kinds of mental issues—lack of confidence, second guessing yourself—can really screw up a single bout or an entire day."
A solid performance this weekend will certainly establish the Bears' confidence in the coming months.
"We can develop into a force to be reckoned with, both in Ivy's and nationally, if everybody on the team puts in the effort that we are all capable of," said Iverson.