April 18, 2008

Gocheva, Pearce Named Captains

April 18, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The women's and men's fencing teams both celebrated the 2007-08 season with a banquet held at Payne Whitney Gymnasium on Saturday, April 12. Current fencers, Head Coach Henry Harutunian and alumni all gathered to recognize the teams' achievements, to announce award winners and to name captains for the 2008-09 campaign. The teams elected sophomore Lidia Gocheva and junior Michael Pearce as captains for the women's and men's teams respectively.

"I think that both teams chose very well [in electing captains]," Head Coach Henry Harutunian said. "I look forward to seeing what Mike and Lidia will accomplish next year. Both of next year's captains are very experienced fencers and have the respect of their teammates and opponents."

The night's events began in the Payne Whitney Gym Fencing Gallery for an alumni reception. In accordance with tradition, the men's team presented each woman fencer with a rose before dinner was served in the President's Room.

Beth Merripp '81 and Corey Friedlander '74 presided over the awards ceremony, which first recognized the efforts of the 2007-08 season's team managers and captains. The managers, juniors Abigail Fraeman and Michael Pearce, and captains, seniors Erin Frey and Steve Miller, all received awards.

Merripp and Friedlander then passed out prizes to the team's most valuable freshman, sophomore, junior and senior.

"As always, the banquet is a great opportunity to see familiar alums and meet new ones as well," junior Michael Pearce said. "It is always a pleasure to see the Most Valuable Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior awards, because they are a great way to recognize the most dedicated fencers of the respective classes."

Nathaniel Botwinick won the prize for Most Valuable Freshman. The New York, N.Y. native had an impressive freshman campaign. With an overall record of 30-14 (68.2%), the freshman foilist qualified for the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships where he claimed eighth. The eighth place finish allowed him to advance to the NCAA Championships. Botwinick took 20th in the foil at the year-end event.

Fellow foilist, John Gurrieri, took home Most Valuable Sophomore honors. The sophomore from Medford, N.J. compiled a 35-12 record (74.5%), the best among any Bulldog with more than 45 bouts. He also led the powerful Bulldog foil attack that also featured Botwinick and sophomore Andrew Hollbrook. The squad tied Columbia for first among all foil squads at the IFA Championships--a performance that paced Yale's fourth place finish at the event.

Gurrieri's individual accolades were also numerous. He too qualified for the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships, where he finished fourth. He then took 13th in the foil at the NCAA Championships.

Captain-elect Michael Pearce was honored as the Bulldogs' Most Valuable Junior. The San Francisco, Calif. native posted the highest winning percentage of any Bulldog, male or female, with a 78.5% win-to-loss ratio (33-9). Coming off of a 4th place finish in the individual epee event at the IFA Championships, Pearce claimed second at the NCAA Northeast Regionals. Like Gurrieri, he then finished thirteenth at the NCAA's.

Pearce has had a distinguished career. Having three times made the trip to the year-end NCAA Championships, Pearce has been a stalwart for the Bulldogs epee squad. His freshman season yielded All-American recognition when he took fifth place at the NCAA Championships. He also served as the team's manager in 2007-08.

Joining Pearce as captain in 2008-09, Lidia Gocheva was elected to lead the women's team. The rising junior will certainly be a strong contributor to the team's performance. The Sophia, Bulgaria native notched a 31-20 (60.8%) record in 2007-08 and finished sixth and 16th at the NCAA Regionals and NCAA Championships respectively.

"I have had a junior captain several times before, and it has gone well before, so I think that Lidia will also rise to the challenge," Hartunian said about Gocheva.

"Lidia will lead a very talented and matured team into a great season of fencing," 2007-08 captain Erin Frey commented. "From the dedication and drastic improvement that I saw just this year, especially from our underclassmen, I really think that the women's team will have impressive showings at next year's big tournaments."

Frey received recognition as the Most Valuable Senior Bulldog. A Cedar Grove, N.J. native, Frey posted a 25-24 record (51.0%) on the year and qualified for the NCAA Northeast Regional event. She and men's team captain, Steve Miller, were both honored for their service.

"Steve is one of the best leaders I know," Pearce said about fellow epeeist and men's team captain, Steve Miller. "He has always been there for me and for all members of the team. His knowledge, advice, leadership, and expertise always have a great impact on the way people think, act, and compete. As my roommate at away tournaments for the past three years and one of my closest friends at Yale, I will really miss his presence on the team next year."

The night concluded after Coach Harutunian and the team's seniors shared memories of each other and of their experiences. Despite the departure of a strong senior class, the team is poised for success in 2008.

"I have a lot of ideas on how to develop and improve our training next year and look forward to working with Lidia to implement them," Pearce concluded.

Report filed by Nicholas Thorne '08, Yale Sports Publicity