NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – The Brandeis University fencing team opened up its 2014-15 campaign with the New England Fall Collegiate Championships, better known as The Big One, at Smith College. The Judges haul included six medals – one gold, three silver and two bronze.
The big winners on the afternoon were the men's sabre squad which captured three of the four berths in the semifinals. Senior Adam Mandel (White Plains, N.Y./The Masters School) reached the finals for the fourth year in a row and won his second-straight title. One of 10 unbeaten fencers in pool play, Mandel was seeded fifth into the direct eliminations based on his touch differential. In the knockout bracket, Mandel rolled into the semifinals, doubling up three straight opponents from WPI, Vermont and the third seed from Boston College. In the semis, Mandel faced his stiffest competition, earning a 15-12 win over Benji Lin of MIT, the top seed. On the bottom of the bracket, senior captain Jess Ochs-Willard (Montclair, N.J./Montclair) met rookie Kyle Berney (Shreveport, La./Caddo Magnet). Ochs-Willard didn't allow an opponent – including two in a row from Sacred Heart - within five points, while Berney edged BC's Liam Cotter, the 14th-seed, 15-13, in the quarterfinals to clinch a spot on the podium. In the semis, the senior prevailed over the freshman, 15-10. Ochs-Willard faced his classmate in the finals, and Mandel earned the 15-8 to defend his title. Ochs-Willard's previous best finish was third in 2012.
In men's foil, the Judges put three fencers in the quarterfinals and two in the semis. Senior Noah Berman (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto), sophomore Len Grazian (Barrington, Ill./Barrington) and senior Ethan Levy (Great Neck, N.Y./Great Neck South) all went 6-0 in pool play to earn top-eight seeds. The trio also made the quarters in 2013. Berman surrendered just five total touches in his first two rounds, then won 15-9 in the third. His quarterfinal match against Sacred Heart's top-seeded Tyler Endee was much tighter, but Berman pulled out a 15-13 win over a foe who gave up just six touches in the first three rounds. Levy and Grazian were seeded into the same section of the draw and eventually met in the quarters. Grazian won back-to-back 15-9 decisions over foes from Sacred Heart and MIT, while Levy topped SHU's James Turner, 15-10, in the round of 16. In the quarters, Levy earned a bid for a medal with a 15-13 win over his teammate Grazian. Berman dispatched Levy in the semis by a 15-4 margin, but ended up falling in the finals to Sacred Heard All-American Andrew Holmes by the same score. It was an improvement over his previous best, a third-place finish last year.
Brandeis's final medalist came on the women's foil side, where junior Caroline Mattos (Providence, R.I./Providence) completed a full set of medals from the Big One. After winning the event as a freshman and placing third last year, Mattos took home the silver medal in 2014. Mattos was seeded second by two touches. She had little trouble reaching the semifinals, where she defeated Jessica Li of MIT, 15-9. In the finals, Mattos fell to Boston College's Nagisa Ogata, the fourth seed by a slim 15-14 margin. Also reaching the quarters in women's foil was newcomer Zimeng "Boots" Xue (Beijing, China/Peking University Affiliated). Despite a 3-2 record in the pool play prelims,Xue went on a roll in the direct elimination, defeating an opponent from MIT, 15-6, the opener, before edging the third seed from Dartmouth, 10-9,. In the round of 16, Xue knocked out teammate Emilia Dwyer ( New York, N.Y./Hunter) 14-12 before falling to sixth-seed in the quarterfinals.
The Judges' other two quarterfinalists were in two more disciplines. Sophomore Ashley Jean (Norwood,Mass./Fontbonne Acad.) matched her 2013 debut by coming in in sixth place. Jean bageled her opening opponent from Vassar and won 15-3 against her second foe from UNH. She reached the quarters with a 15-11 win over a foe from Wellesley before falling short of the semis by the same score against an opponent from Smith. Finally, in men's epee, junior Justin Kwon (Seoul, Korea/Wasatch Acad.) placed eighth, up 13 spots from 2013. Kwon won four of five pool matches and was seeded 20th. After a 15-6 win over a UMass fencer in the first round, Kwon edged an opponent from Sacred Heart and teammate Albert Reiss (Millburn, N.J./Millburn) by 15-14 scores to reach the quarters before losing, 15-11, to the fifth seed and eventual champion Jonathan Alperstein of Vassar.
The Judges return to action in two weeks at the first of two Northeast Fencing Conference meets.