St. John’s held its first ever on-campus fencing invitational tournament Sunday at Carnesecca Arena, defeating Rutgers.
The victories moved the men to 9-5 on the season, while the women improved to 13-3.
St. John’s standout fencer and men’s captain Ben Bratton posted two wins for the day in epee, moving to 27-5 for the year, while freshman Olga Ovtchinnikova recorded three wins and remains on pace to eclipse the 40-win plateau in the saber.
Bratton has recently been representing the United States internationally in the Senior World Cup Grand Prix competitions.
The global contests have done nothing but help Bratton.
“I feel less pressure here,” Bratton said. “I recognize these guys, and I know they’re at a certain level.”
He added that, despite that fact, the college level is no cakewalk: “These guys can bring it.”
Another factor that certainly takes pressure off Bratton, as well as his teammates, is how lighthearted the atmosphere was.
St. John’s got into a huddle before the match for a good-natured cheer, and also showed good sportsmanship afterwards, thanking Rutgers for their participation as a team in the Red Storm’s first home meet.
“You’re always nervous beforehand, but we like to do things to loosen the mood,” Bratton said. “It’s all about having fun.”
The St. John’s women swept the competition from Rutgers, winning 9-0 in foil, 6-3 in the saber, and slipping by in epee with a 5-4 victory.
The Rutgers men’s only victory came in foil, edging St. John’s, 5-4, while dropping the saber and epee matches at 6-3 and 7-2, respectively.
The Red Storm men currently own records of 61-38 in foil, 69-30 in epee, and 58-35 in the saber, while the woman boast records of 64-35 in foil, 46-53 in epee, and 51-48 in the saber.
In recent years, St. John’s fencing has grown to be one of the premier programs in the nation, winning the NCAA Championship in 2001, leading many to question why the university has never had an invitational.
“It was difficult to get facility use,” coach Yury Gelman said. “With the new facility, we can now have the tournament.”
The coach was referring to the addition of the Taffner Field House, which now accommodates team practices for St. John’s basketball, allowing room for the tournament in Carnesecca Arena.
Gelman also said that more teams are looking to exact vengeance after the success St. John’s has had in recent years, which includes finishing third nationally last season and winning the national championship in 2001.
“They always are out to get us,” Gelman said, “but I think we’re good enough to be in the top four this year.”
The Red Storm men’s and women’s fencing teams are back in action on March 5 in Cambridge, Mass., where they will compete in the Northeast Regional Championships.