Fencing No. 2 at NCAA tourney

The St. John’s fencing team finished second in the NCAA tournament in a four-day competition at Drew University. The team, who worked hard during the season to get to their current position in the standings, earned 176 points collectively in the tournament. Both the men’s and women’s captains, senior Benjamin Bratton and junior Monika Golebiewski respectively, won silver medals in their events.

“They did very well,” coach Yury Gelman said. “[They’re] definitely two of the best fencers, [but] all did very well.”
The Red Storm had qualified the maximum number of 12 fencers to go on to the NCAA tournament, earning the right to take their best fencers from each event along. St. John’s was one of only three teams to accomplish this. The women’s team had three No. 1 seeds, while the men’s team had two No. 1 seeds in their arsenal.

“I am very proud,” Gelman said. “They practice very hard.”

The men’s team wrapped up their NCAA action on Friday with Bratton, who had19 victories and 106 touches, taking home the silver medal in men’s epee. Also competing in the epee event was Stan Vaksman, who took seventh place. In men’s foil, senior Henry Kennard finished sixth, while freshmen Alexis Landreville finished in 16th place overall. In men’s sabre, sophomore Luther Clement finished fifth and freshman Torian Brown took 18th place. Overall, the men earned 82 total team points.

“It was one big rollercoaster,” Bratton said. “I didn’t want to blow my last [collegiate] tournament, but after I started to relax and started fencing, I just decided to have fun with it because it’s my last chance.

“To come up short and not win, it was kind of disappointing,” he added. “But I did what I had to do to support the team.”

Golebiewski took second place in women’s foil, finishing with 19 victories and an 82.6 winning percentage, only falling five points to Penn State’s Doris Willette, losing 15-10.

Junior Katia Larchanka ranked 11th in the same event with 101 touches overall.

“It was hard because it was the first time for me,” Golebiewski said. “I was nervous because everybody else was nervous and it’s such a big deal. [I] was pressured physically and mentally.

“You’re happy because you made it so far, but disappointed because you think you could have won,” Golebiewski added.
Junior Reka Szele earned the bronze medal in women’s epee, gaining 17 victories and scoring 102 touches. Freshman Tanya Novakovska landed in the top five with 15 victories and scoring 99 touches in the women’s epee event. With 16 victories each in women’s sabre, freshman Dagmara Wozniak, ranked the No. 1 junior women’s sabre fencer in the world, finished in fifth place with 97 touches while sophomore Olga Ovtchinnikova ranked sixth with 92 touches.

“I knew it’s a lot of pressure and it’s not an easy competition,” said Szele. “It’s only five touches battes (battements) that makes everything harder because you have a shorter time to figure out your opponent.

“You can’t really lose any batte because it’s not just for yourself, it’s for the team,” Szele added.

As the captain of the women’s team, Golebiewski felt her team’s effort was “pretty good” overall.

By the end of the women’s competition on Sunday, they had earned 94 points.
Gelman said he has some goals to “stay in the top three” next season. While Golebiewski and Szele practice to gain the coveted NCAA number one spot next year, Bratton will reminisce on the years with the St. John’s fencing team.

“I’m going to miss the bus and seeing my whole team’s face,”
Bratton said. “Those are my boys and girls. I love those guys.”