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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Messinger and Berman named UAA Fencer of the Week

Published: February 8, 2013
Section: Sports

The Brandeis fencing team may have some inexperienced members, but they are improving at a rapid pace: competitors Zoe Messinger ’13 and Noah Berman ’15 both won UAA Fencer of the Week honors.

“It means that in the UAA, Noah Berman and I had the best records,” Messinger said. “I am proud of my performance, and I’m happy they chose to write about me!”

According to Coach William Shipman, “nearly all of our fencers come with significant high school and/or club training and tournament experience.” That granted, “Their skill and training varies greatly,” he said.

This has affected the performance of the team this season. Shipman coaches both teams, and while men and women’s teams practice together, they compete separately.

“Last year, the women’s team had a transition year, in which we had a few empty spots to fill,” Messinger said. “I am really pleased with our performance so far. All of the girls on the team put in their all.”

Shipman believes, “the women are performing well, given their experience” and mentioned the large amount of first-year fencers, all improving in the sport.

“We have so many quality freshmen on the team,” he said. “All have potential but do not yet perform at the highest potential.”

The women’s team has a record of 16-8. The men’s team has a better record, with 12-8; Shipman admits they are “overall a stronger group now.” He also believes that the men suffer from bouts of instability, where they are strong at some meets and weak at others. “All will improve and be quite a good team soon,” he said.

Fencing involves three types of weapons, foil, epee and sabre.

“Each have different rules and target areas for scoring touches,” Messinger said. “In foil, the target area is mainly the torso and back; in epee, the target area is the entire body; in sabre, however, the target area is the torso up.”

Messinger herself is a sabre fencer, again one of the best in the conference. “The fun part about sabre is that in addition to poking, you can also slash to get your touches,” she said.

“Think Zorro, only in real life.” Berman is a foil fencer.

In regards to recent meets, Shipman discussed the Eric Sollee Invitational meet at MIT, as well as the men winning over NYU and Haverford. Messinger also remarked on the Sollee meet.

“We had a really good mindset. We wanted to win and I think we performed well against some of the top teams in the country,” she said. “In fencing, it’s all about your mindset. Any fencer can win on any given day, depending on his or her mental state.”

Berman recalls a tournament labeled “The Big One.” “It is an individual tournament that opens up the season,” he said. “I got sixth place in it, which definitely made it better, but I think it is good to start off the year as an individual so that way it is easier to gauge yourself against all the other fencers in the region.”

Messinger is senior captain, which includes responsibilities like leading warm ups, giving speeches before meets and keeping up morale. “It is such an honor to be in charge of a group of such self-motivated individuals,” she said. “They really make my life easy … they are my second family.” While Shipman does admit that winning the UAA Fencer of the Week is “not so [important] as in other sports as there are only two fencing schools now in the UAA,” he still says, “it’s a nice honor and signifies a great result.”

Messinger became interested in fencing because she was shy as a child. “I was afraid that other children would bully me in a team sport. My mother suggested fencing, which she used to do. I loved it right away because it was an individual sport; there is no one to blame for your actions other than yourself,” she said.

Berman started fencing when he was 10 years old, introduced to the sport by a family friend. “My parents made me go to a class and I hated it,” he said. “But they said I had to go to a second class and after that one I was hooked … fencing is fun and I would do it all day if I could.”

Both Messinger and Berman refer to fencing as “physical chess,” as this is a sport that very much involves the mind. Their talent lies not only in fancy footwork but also in their ability to mentally focus.