WELLESLEY, Mass. – The Brandeis University fencing team had one of its most successful performances at the NCAA Northeast Regional Qualifier today at Wellesley College. The Judges had three fencers in position to earn automatic bids and one up for an at-large position when the qualifiers for the 2014 NCAA National Collegiate Championships are announced on Tuesday. The NCAA championships will be held at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, March 20-23.
Leading the way for the Judges was sophomore Caroline Mattos (Cumberland, R.I./La Salle Acad.). Mattos had one of the best finishes ever for the Judges at the regional championships, placing fourth overall, just one touch short of a bronze medal. Seeded 12th headed into the event, Mattos went 5-1 in her opening pool, outtouching her opponents 28-8 to advance to the round of 21 in the sixth spot. She went 3-3 in the second round, including a win over Harvard silver medalist Alex Kiefer, earning the 11th of 12 spots in the finals due to a plus-one touch differential, or indicator (22-21). Though Kiefer got her revenge in the finals, Mattos went 7-4 with a plus-10 indicator (44-34), to finish in fourth place behind Columbia's Jessica Laffey by just one touch. Mattos, who defeated Laffey head-to-head, 5-3, in the final round, also defeated opponents from St. John's, Cornell, Yale and Brown in the last 12. Mattos, who finished seventh in the region in 2013, is in line for her second-straight NCAA championship berth. She tied with an MIT sabre fencer for highest finish by a Division III woman today.
"Caroline showed a high level of consistency and composure in placing fourth overall," said head coach Bill Shipman. "She started slowly in the final but finished strong and without fatigue. She has fenced well and consistently all season and continued today."
On the men's side, Brandeis has a chance to bring three fencers to nationals. Leading the way will be junior sabre fencer Adam Mandel (White Plains, N.Y./Masters School). Mandel, who finished 10th in the Northeast and 12th at NCAAs to earn All-America status a year ago, turned in a fifth-place finish in the region this year. Mandel entered the regional championship seeded eighth overall. He won his first pool – which included the top overall seed Geoffrey Loss of Columbia – with a 5-1 record and plus-14 indicator (29-15), good for seventh overall. Mandel went 5-1 again in the second round, with a plus-11 differential (28-17). Both of his defeats in the opening pools came at the hands of Loss. Ranked fourth in the final group of 11 behind two fencers from Columbia and one from St. John's, Mandel went 7-4 in the last round with a 0 indicator (42-42). He topped two of Loss's Columbia teammates, two Harvard fencers, silver medalist Ferenc Valkai of St. John's and Andrew Kelly of rival NYU. As with Mattos, Mandel tied with the bronze medalist with seven wins and defeated Harvard's Alexander Rykij head-to-head, 5-4, but finished behind Rykij (+14) and Loss (+9) on indicator. Mandel was the second-highest Division III male today in the Northeast, behind an MIT epeeist who was the silver medalist.
"Adam cemented a strong season," said coach Shipman. "He advanced easily through the rounds to the final and beat some of the best fencers in the US to place fifth. He kept his focus and composure until the last bout or two. He has the skill to finish well at nationals and has proven he can compete well with the best."
Mandel also defeated teammate and classmate Jess Ochs-Willard (Montclair, N.J./Montclair) in the finals. Ochs-Willard, the tournament's 15th seed, made his way to the finals and wound up 12th overall. He was 4-2 in the opening round with a plus-12 differential (27-15), taking the 10th spot in the round of 21. Ochs-Willard went 4-2 again in the second round, this time with a plus-7 indicator (25-18), tying for the seventh spot into the finals with Kelly. He also took down Valkai in the round of 21. Though he struggled in the finals, winning just two of his final 11 bouts – over Duncan O'Brian of Harvard and Yale's Hugh O'Cinneide – the 12th-place finish was enough to get Ochs-Willard at-large consideration as the No. 10 fencer, as both Harvard and Columbia had three fencers in the finals with only two allowed to travel to nationals.
"Jess fenced his best of the season in the first two rounds to make into the finals fairly easily," Shipman said.
Brandeis's final automatic berth at NCAAs is expected to go to junior Noah Berman (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto). Berman was seeded 11th heading into the regionals, and he lived up to that seed with an 11th-place finish. He fell behind that seed after his first round of fencing, going 4-2 with wins over opponents from three Ivy League programs as well as MIT, but his plus-four indicator (23-19) put him in 14th place. In the round of 21, he edged his way into the finals by three touches with a 3-3 record and minus-one indicator (21-22). His wins were over teammate Len Grazian (Barrington, Ill./Barrington), Harrison Bergman of Columbia and James Broughton of Yale. Though he won just two of 11 bouts in the finals – over Lucas Lin of Harvard and Alberto Linaldi of Hunter – Berman's 11-place finish should earn him the ninth automatic spot in the Northeast, as Harvard sent four fencers to the finals. This would be Berman's first appearance at nationals.
"Noah has been a stalwart on our strong foil squad and deserves this accomplishment," Shipman said. "He gave a great effort and reached his goal."
The Judges' top finishers in other weapons were Ari Feingersch (Coral Springs, Fla./J.P. Tavarella) , who placed 13th in men's epee as the 20th seed and missed the finals by just one touch; Sonya Glickman (Valhalla, N.Y./Valhalla) who was 21st in women's epee as the 23rd seed, coming out of the preliminary round with a 4-0 record, and going 3-3 in the first round to reach the round of 21, where she was unable to add another win; and rookie Nina Sayles (Mamaroneck, N.Y./Loomis Chaffee) who was 26th in women's sabre, matching her seed after going 3-1 in prelims and 2-4 in the first round.