Fencing for Southeaster Massachusetts University (SMU) is like running a Harold Stassen Presidential campaign. There's never much chance for success, but the tolerance for embarrassment is remarkably high. Today, SMU comes to Harvard to take on what may be the strongest Crimson team in years SMU's chances do not look particularly bright for this afternoon's contest.
SMU is a small state college in Dartmouth drawing most of its students from the surrounding Fall River-New Bedford area. SMU does not get experienced fencers. In fact, according to Corsait coach Eugene Williams, "We get zero in terms of experience."
Last year SMU lost, 25-2, to Harvard in a mis-match of monumental proportions. The year before, the Corsairs dropped the Harvard contest 22-5.
Crimson coach Edo Marion said yesterday that while SMU boasts a fairly large program, "the team is perennially weak." Harvard captain Terry Valenzuela was less generous in his analysis of SMU's chances. "We could beat them in street clothes," he said. "I don't think that we'll lose a single bout."
"We're a very green team," Williams said yesterday. Last year we were very low. This season we have had to start from scratch."
Today's match will be the second of the young season for the Corsairs. In a triangular meet with Dartmouth and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, SMU turned back Dartmouth, 14-13, while losing to Worcester Poly, 18-9, Neither Dartmouth for Worcester has much strength as a fencing power.
Williams attributed last year's week showing largely to the squad's change of gyms in December. "That really screwed us up." Williams said. The gym is on another campus of the three-college university.
In sabre, Valenzuela and Gordon Rutledge will start at number one and two for Harvard. The third spot will go to either Victor Seals, a sophomore returning from a leave of absence, or Walt Morris a senior.
In foil, where Marion expects to be especially strong, Phillipe Bennett will fence in the first position with Howie Weiss and Dave Fichter holding down the other two spots.
Chris Jennings will lead the epee squad. Eugene White and John Hirsehfeld will handle the other two positions.
Marion wants to use the SMU match to get a look at some of his less experienced performers Consequently he will use his "first string" only for the first round.