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Zagunis and Homer Open October NAC with Gold in Portland

10/11/2014, 10:45pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

Division I women's saber podium. Photo Credit: Nicole Jomantas

(Portland, Ore.) – London Olympic teammates Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) and Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.) set the tone for the season with gold medal wins on the Friday during the first day of the October North American Cup at the Oregon Convention Center.

For Zagunis, the Division I women’s saber event offered the two-time Olympic Champion a rare chance to compete in front of a hometown crowd as she fenced in her first national tournament since the 2008 USA Fencing Division I National Championships were held here as well.

“It was awesome. I’m glad a lot of my friends and family wanted to come. They always want to watch me and the best they can usually do is to find semi-live results online when I’m in foreign countries, so, to be here and have them see the action was great and I really enjoyed having them supporting me all day,” Zagunis said.

For Zagunis’s opponents, the tournament meant the opportunity to take the strip against one of the most decorated athletes in the sport and her competitors in the pool rounds were eager to line up against their hero.

While Zagunis won five of six bouts against teenage opponents, Canadian Pamela Brind’Amour was the only one who could produce an upset with a 5-4 victory over Zagunis who rarely has fenced a pool bout on the World Cup circuit during the past decade.

Despite the loss, Zagunis came out of the pools with a fifth seed and a bye into the table of 64 where she defeated Casey Chan (Cresskill, N.J.), 15-4.

Zagunis went on to pick up a pair of 15-5 victories over Sara Cunningham (Decatur, Ga.) and her Oregon Fencing Alliance teammate, Chloe Fox-Gitomer (Portland, Ore.)

In the quarter-finals, Zagunis met her toughest challenge of the day. Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.) – Zagunis’s teammate on the squad that won bronze at the 2011 and 2012 Senior World Championships – scored 10 touches on Zagunis who prevailed with a 15-10 win.

Zagunis won her semifinal against 2013 Junior World Team Champion Francesca Russo (Wayne, N.J.), 15-8.

In the other semi, Loweye Diedro (New York, N.Y.) upset 2014 Senior World Team Champion Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.), 15-14, to qualify for her first Division I NAC final.

Since Diedro doesn’t fence on the European World Cup circuit, she would be a new face for Zagunis who scouted her opponent during the semis.

“I didn’t know anything about Loweye before I fenced her. She’s one of those people who I’ve seen her name from the NAC results and such, but I’ve never seen her fence,” Zagunis said. “I was able to watch the last half of her bout with Eliza, so I was able to see her style and that prepped me for the final.”

Zagunis opened with four unanswered touches, but Diedro stayed in the bout as she trailed Zagunis by just four touches at the half.

In the second period, Diedro followed Zagunis’s opening score with one of her own, but the Olympic Champion scored six of the next seven for a 15-6 win.

“I just treated today as a warmup tournament and wanted to have fun and have the experience since I hadn’t fenced a NAC in so long,” said Zagunis who will open the World Cup season in two weeks. “I didn’t feel too much pressure. I felt pretty relaxed all day and I think that helped with the result I got because I didn’t put so much pressure on myself. I just kind of did my thing and was able to fence pretty well I thought.”

Zagunis will fence in the team competition with her OFA clubmates on Saturday and then turn her focus to a national team training camp at OFA.

“We’re going to have a really good training camp this week. We’ve got all the top people coming in. We’ve got a lot of international people. It’s really just going to be an intense, good camp and I’m looking forward to it,” Zagunis said. “Since our season starts so early this year and a lot of people are here for the NAC, it just makes sense to train together and do everything we have to do to make sure we’re ready for the season to kick off at the end of the month.”

Like Zagunis, Homer came into the October NAC as the No. 1 seed and the favorite to win his first domestic tournament in the past year.

Homer dropped just one pool bout and earned a bye into the table of 64 where he defeated Marcel Dolegiewicz (Park Ridge, Ill.), 15-6.

After a 15-11 victory against 2011 Cadet World Team member Peter Pak (Roslyn, N.Y.), Homer would face Tim Morehouse (New York City, N.Y.) – his 2012 Olympic teammate and training partner at Manhattan Fencing Center.

“It was a really tough day overall and each bout had a different challenge, but Tim and I have a lot of history together. We’ve fenced together for a really long time and winning that bout was a really big deal for me,” Homer said. “With Tim I had a little fear of losing early in the tournament and also, obviously, Tim’s essentially retired, so it was a bit of a tough bout there.” 

Fencing in his first tournament since February of 2013, Morehouse got off to a quick start with a 4-0 lead against Homer who adjusted his strategy to outscore his teammate, 8-1, for an 8-5 lead at the break. Homer went on to close out the win with a 15-9 score.

“Tim started the bout really intelligently. He went for a lot of parries knowing that I’d think he’d mainly go for counter-attacks and I just started to move and use the strip more. I paid more attention to my footwork and kept the distance a little further away so I could recognize what he was doing, accelerate and finish,” Homer said. “Towards the end of the bout, I was able to recognize what he was doing and make tactical decisions in terms of making parries, counter-attacks and pulling him short.”

In the quarter-finals, 2012 Junior World Team member Michael Costin (Culver City, Calif.) produced the day’s greatest lead against Homer when he was up, 8-3, at the half. Unfazed, Homer tied the bout at 10 and finished with a 15-11 victory.

Homer fenced his MFC teammate, 2014 Cadet World Team member Ben Natanzon (Manalapan, N.J.), in the semis and earned a 15-9 win.

In the gold medal final, Homer was up against Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.) – the No. 2-ranked junior in the world who made his mark on the senior circuit this season with titles at the Pan American Championships and the Division I Nationals.

“I knew it was going to be really tough. Eli’s an amazing, amazing competitor and someone I have a tough time with. He has really good endurance and he’s a really really tough guy to put away. Even if you’re up five touches, you know Eli’s going to keep coming and make you work for each inch of the strip,” Homer said. “So I knew it was going to be a battle, but I also knew that, if I started aggressively and if I dictated the bout with my actions, my odds go up drastically vs. letting him dictate the bout.”

While Dershwitz tied Homer mid-way through the first period, Homer finished the half at 8-6 and built a 14-9 lead late in the bout.

Dershwitz scored three straight, however, and Homer called a medical timeout for cramping before coming back to end the final, 15-12.

“To be honest, I should have probably called medical two touches earlier, but I wanted to see if I could power through. Eli had a little bit of momentum and I knew that I was cramping and it didn’t make sense to keep going. I just needed to sit down, get the cramp solved and jump back in,” Homer said.

Homer’s next tournament will take place at the Budapest World Cup next month and he said his win in Portland provides good momentum for the season.

“We’ve been working hard and it’s a good start to the season. Obviously, we have tougher things coming up with the World Cups and the Olympic qualification season starting in April, but it feels good to get off to a good start,” he said.

Foil fencer Stefani Deschner (Mechanicsville, Va.) began the tournament as the top-ranked cadet in the nation, but it wasn’t until she earned her fifth direct elimination bout that Deschner could claim her first cadet NAC title.

Deschner, a 2014 Cadet World Team member, earned a bye into the table of 64 and took her first win by a 15-10 margin over Xiao-Qing Tsai (Salt Lake City, Utah).

Deschner defeated Julia Gianneschi (Atlanta, Ga.), 15-4, in the 32 and won her next bout against Danielle Ferdon (San Francisco, Calif.), 15-8.

In the quarter-finals, Deschner defeated Alexa Prasher (Grand Rapids, Mich.), 15-12, and advanced to a semifinal that would be a rematch of her gold medal final against two-time Cadet World Team member Morgan Partridge (Swansea, Mass.) at the Gyor Cadet European Cup last month. While Partridge won their last bout, Deschner earned this victory, 15-9.

Deschner’s opponent in the finals, Sylvie Binder (Armonk, N.Y.), is another top candidate for the 2015 Cadet World squad. Binder took bronze in Gyor and finished second behind Partridge at the last NAC in July. Deschner set a quick pace early and built a 10-8 lead at the end of the first period. In the second, she outscored Binder, 5-1, for a 15-9 win.

In the cadet men’s epee event, 13-year-old epee fencer Jonathan Piskovatskov (Houston, Texas) won his first cadet NAC title on Friday.

Piskovatskov, who won gold as a Y14 fencer at the March NAC, came out of the pools as the top seed and defeated Mick Yamanaka (Floral Park, N.Y.), 15-6, after a bye into the table of 64.

Piskovatskov won his next two bouts against William Zhang (Princeton Junction, N.J.) and Thomas Petrosewicz (Richmond, Texas) by 15-10 and 15-11 scores, respectively.

In the quarters, Piskovatskov earned a 15-12 victory against Adrien Thein-Sandler (Topanga, Calif.) to secure a medal.

Ezra Wright (Washington, D.C.) scored two quick touches to open their semifinal bout, but Piskovatskov answered with four singles. Wright kept the bout close and, by the second period, Piskovatskov led by just a touch at 10-9. During the next 30 seconds, Piskovatskov gave up one score on a double and earned four singles for a 15-10 win.

Piskovatskov led the gold medal final bout, 10-9, against Joshua Wolkoff (Boston, Mass.) at the start of the third period and went on to close out a 15-11 victory.

Ella Lombard-Billstrom (Amherst, Mass.) won her first NAC title with a gold in the Division II epee event. Lombard defeated Isabel Kain (Boston, Mass.), 15-8, in the final bout.

In the senior men’s team epee event, Northwest Fencing Center 1 claimed gold in its hometown event. The team of Alexandre Crepeaux (Portland, Ore.), Austin Li (Bellevue, Wash.), Gregory Mitberg (Beaverton, Ore.) and William Wise (Lake Oswego, Ore.) defeated the San Francisco Fencers Club, 45-34. The SFFC team of Hugo Brousse (San Francisco, Calif.), Zachary Hammer (San Mateo, Calif.), Keith Kan (Millbrae, Calif.) and Sebastian Medloff (Corte Madera, Calif.) finished with a silver medal.

The PUR MF team of Hector Cruz Jimenez, Angelo Justiniano and Jonathan Lugo earned bronze.

Click here to view complete results.

Top eight results are as follows:

Division I Men’s Saber
1. Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.)
2. Eli Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.)
3. Benjamin Natanzon (Manalapan, N.J.)
3. Peter Souders (Silver Spring, Md.)
5. Michael Costin (Culver City, Calif.)
6. Edward Chin (Livingston, N.J.)
7. Marty Williams (Danbury, Conn.)
8. Jacob Asch (Alexandria, Va.)

Division I Women’s Saber
1. Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)
2. Loweye Diedro (New York, N.Y.)
3. Francesca Russo (Wayne, N.J.)
3. Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.)
5. Monica Aksamit (Matawan, N.J)
6. Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.)
7. Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.)
8. Violet Michel (Cambridge, Mass.)

Cadet Men’s Epee
1. Jonathan Piskovatskov (Houston, Texas)
2. Joshua Wolkoff (Boston, Mass.)
3. Charlie Horowitz (Los Angeles, Calif.)
3. Ezra Wright (Washington, D.C.)
5. Dylan Kim (Marietta, Ga.)
6. Adrien Thein-Sandler (Topanga, Calif.)
7. Wesley Yuan (Princeton Junction, N.J.)
8. Kaiden Crotchett (Hillsboro, Ore.)

Cadet Women’s Foil
1. Stefani Deschner (Mechanicsville, Va.)
2. Sylvie Binder (Armonk, N.Y.)
3. Carlexa Fevery (New York City, N.Y.)
3. Morgan Partridge (Swansea, Mass.)
5. Polly Adler (Scarsdale, N.Y.)
6. Melissa Du (Short Hills N.J.)
7. Alexa Prasher (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
8. Alexandra Park (Manhattan Beach, Calif.)

Senior Team Men’s Foil
1. NWFC 1
2. San Francisco Fencers Club
4. NWFC 2
5. Rain City Fencing Center
6. Wasatch Fencing
8. Denver Fencing Center

Division II Women’s Epee
1. Ella Lombard-Billstrom (Amherst, Mass.)
2. Isabel Kain (Boston, Mass.)
3. Caroline Glowacky (Huntington, N.Y.)
3. Christina Kaneshige (New York, N.Y.)
5. Meghan Phair (Portland, Ore.)
6. Mahee Merica (FRA)
7. Lena Kunjan (Sunnyvale, Calif.)
8. Samantha Galina (Dix Hills N.Y.)

Tag(s): News  Daryl Homer  Mariel Zagunis  Stefani Deschner