MEDFORD - Eight members of the Tufts University women's fencing team will compete at the 2016 NCAA Regionals on Sunday at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. They will be looking to advance to the NCAA Championships hosted by Brandeis March 24-27.
Representing Tufts at the Regional will be seniors Alex Boden (sabre) and Julia Malleck (epee), juniors Chandler Coble (epee), Anna Gooch (epee), and Juliet Hewes (foil), and sophomores Nayab Ajaz (sabre), Bridget Marturano (sabre), and Julia O'Gara (foil).
Unlike the regular-season when team results are recorded, the Regional is an individual competition. Despite that difference, the Jumbos will take advantage of the team atmosphere created by eight members who will be in action at the site.
"This is my first year going to Regionals, and knowing I'll have the support of so many teammates there means a lot to me," Ajaz said. "No fencing competition is truly individual. The energy of your team supports you and vice versa. Just knowing my teammates will be there cheering each other on makes me sure that no matter what our personal outcomes, the advice and friendship we give each other will make it a great competition."
Ajaz is one of just two Jumbos who has not fenced at the Regional previously, joined by O'Gara. Bowden qualified for the fourth consecutive season, while Gooch and Hewes are in the Regional field for the third straight year. Marturano, Malleck and Coble have each been to the Regional once before.
At last year's NCAA Regionals hosted by NYU, Marturano was 21st in sabre, Hewes took 30th in foil, and Gooch (epee) and Boden (sabre) were each 32nd in their weapon. Tufts hasn't advanced a fencer to Nationals recently. Keeping their expectations realistic is an important approach to this weekend's bouts.
"Last year as a freshman I made it to the second to last round," Marturano said. "I fenced really well that season and a lot of that came from having no expectations. I think for me, it's best not to worry about where I place. My goal is to have good bouts and walk away feeling good about how I fenced and happy that I fenced. The competition is stronger than anything we've fenced so far, but that will be the best part. That being said, I would love to match or exceed my placement from last year. Even if I don't do that but I'm happy with my fencing then I'll still have met my goal."
Regardless of the results, the experience of eight team members qualifying and making the trip to upstate New York together will be motivating for the weekend and a lasting memory for the Jumbos to share.
"Having a good mindset to begin the competition is crucial," Ajaz said. "Even the experience of driving up with my teammates helps create that mindset. Singing along to the radio, talking, and simply being able to feel comfortable before this competition is a great ritual of this team. This kind of camaraderie is truly the best thing before competitions, and I look forward to it again before Regionals."
Vassar will provide video coverage of the NCAA Regional at http://www.vassarathletics.com/sports/2014/9/2/boxcast3.aspx.