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U.S. Women’s Foil Upsets Dream Team to Win Silver in Gdansk

01/18/2015, 11:45pm CST
By Nicole Jomantas

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – Billed as the “Dream Team,” the Italian women’s foil squad has been nearly unstoppable for most countries. Not only is Italy ranked No. 1 in the world, but the two-time reigning World Champions have won all but one Olympic team title since 1992.

Although the American women have upset some of Italy’s top fencers individually, Italy has often remained just out of reach for Team USA.

All of that changed on Sunday as Team USA upset the best nation in the world at the Gdansk World Cup in Poland and went on to win its first medal on the World Cup circuit in more than a decade.

Team USA entered the tournament as the fifth seed and opened the tournament with a 45-22 victory over Japan in the table of 16.

In the quarter-finals, the Americans faced Korea – the 2012 Olympic bronze medalists.

Due to the seeding of the team event, the Americans and Koreans are frequent opponents in the quarter-finals with Korea holding the upper hand during the past two seasons.

This season, however, Team USA defeated Korea at the Cancun World Cup in October and fell just three touches short of its rival at the St. Maur World Cup in November.

After three low-scoring bouts, Korea held an 11-10 lead when four-time Junior World medalist Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.) turned the tide for Team USA, outscoring 2009 Senior World silver medalist Hee Sook Jeon, 6-1, to give the Americans a 16-12.

Lu and 2012 Olympians Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.) and Nicole Ross (New York, N.Y.) won three of the next four bouts over their Korean opponents.

Ross came into the anchor bout with a 40-26 lead, but didn’t sit back at all as she shut out Gil Ok Jung, 5-0, to finish the match, 45-26, and send Team USA to the semifinals for the second time this season.

In the semis, each of Team USA’s fencers would post critical wins against a lineup of Olympic and Senior World medalists from Italy.

Lu won a pivotal second bout against two-time reigning Senior World Champion Arianna Errigo, 8-4, and gave Team USA a 10-9 lead.

“We started out a bit down after my first bout, but then Margaret had a great bout with Errigo and we all fenced well from there on out,” Ross said.

In the next bout, Kiefer fenced Valentina Vezzali – the six-time Olympic Champion who kept Kiefer from winning her second Senior World medal last July. This time, Kiefer held fencing’s legend to a single touch as she pushed Team USA’s score to 15-10.

Over the course of the match, Kiefer posted a +10 indicator as she later defeated Errigo, 8-5, in the fifth bout and 2014 Senior World silver medalist Martina Batini, 7-4, in the eighth.

With a 39-32 lead at the start of the anchor bout, Ross not only held off Errigo, but gave the Italian her third bout loss of the match to secure a 45-36 win for Team USA.

“We wanted to win and we were trying to win but it felt more like we were just fencing and figuring out their game. As the match progressed and they weren't catching up and we weren't making any big mistakes, it started to become a reality that we really could beat them,” Ross said. “When I scored the last touch, I couldn't even yell. I just turned to look at the team and we all started celebrating.”

Italy went on to win the bronze after a 45-14 defeat of Germany in the third place match.

Team USA would face Russia, the 2014 Senior World silver medalists, in the gold medal final.  Although Ross shut out 2013 Senior World bronze medalist Inna Deriglazova, 5-0, in the sixth bout and 2014 NCAA silver medalist Madison Zeiss (Culver City, Calif.) was brought in to change up the match in the seventh, Russia still held a 36-27 lead going into the final bout. Ross scored eight touches against Larisa Korobeynikova in the anchor bout, but Russia took the victory, 44-36.

The win marks the best result for the squad since its silver medal win at the Beijing Olympic Games.

“I’m particularly proud of our fantastic win over Italy and the great team effort we had all day. Everybody contributed and everyone had their moments to help put us on the medal stand, said Head Coach Buckie Leach (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.)

Ross said the win was the culmination of hard work over the past few seasons by each member of the team.

“Each one of us has unique tools and capabilities on our own, but merging those together into a cohesive team that wins matches has been a challenge. We've made the four a couple of times now so to be able to seamlessly take it to the next level was hugely gratifying for all of us,” Ross said. “We hope this is only the beginning of many more podium finishes to come. We're excited to keep testing ourselves in World Cups and improve leading up to World Championships this summer.”

Ross also credited Leach with being instrumental in the team’s success.

“Buckie has worked tirelessly to help us develop into a team that can work as a unit and not just as individuals. It's exciting to share this podium finish with him – someone who always believes in us and pushes us to be our best,” she said.

The Americans also had success in the individual event on Saturday with London Olympian Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.) earning a seventh-place finish.

Gdansk would be the first international tournament back on the circuit for Prescod who just returned to training recently after undergoing surgery after the 2014 Senior Worlds.

Despite her injury, Prescod remained in the top 16 in the world and the 14th seed in the table of 64.

Prescod defeated Sandra Bingenheimer (GER), 15-13, in her opening round and won her table of 32 bout against 2014 Youth Olympic Champion Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.), 15-11.

Prescod qualified for the quarters with a 15-9 win over 2014 Senior World silver medalist Martina Batini (ITA), but lost her next round to 2011 Junior World bronze medalist Ysaora Thibus (FRA), 15-10.

Kiefer advanced to the table of 16 after wins over Franziska Schmitz (GER) and Svetlana Tripapina (RUS) by 15-4 and 11-10 scores, respectively.

In the 16, however, Kiefer lost to Thibus, 15-10.

Ross defeated 2013 Senior World silver medalist Carolin Golubytskyi (GER), 15-7, but missed a potential matchup against Prescod in the 16 after a 15-7 loss to Batini.

After qualifying for the table of 64, Zeiss lost her bout to Chiara Cini (ITA), 15-6.

Click here to view complete individual results.

Click here to view complete team results.

Top eight and U.S. results are as follows:

Gdansk Individual Foil World Cup
1. Astrid Guyart (FRA)
2. Hee Sook Jeon (KOR)
3. Ines Boubakri (TUN)
3. Ysaora Thibus (FRA)
5. Arianna Errigo (ITA)
6. Valentina Vezzali (ITA)
7. Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
8. Huilin Le (CHN)

11. Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.)
22. Nicole Ross (New York, N.Y.)
29. Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)
40. Madison Zeiss (Culver City, Calif.)
81. Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.)
104. Jackie Dubrovich (Riverdale, N.J.)
121. Jessie Laffey (Glen Ridge, N.J.)

Gdansk Team Foil World Cup
1. Russia
2. USA
3. Italy
4. Germany
5. Korea
6. France
7. Poland
8. China 

Tag(s): News  Nicole Ross  Lee Kiefer  Nzingha Prescod  Margaret Lu