Although the women’s fencing team at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) was able to practice during the 2020-21 school year, they did not compete. Being back in action feels really good to the student-athletes and head coach Alex Delaney, who has been at FDU since 2015 and was named head coach in August 2020.
“They just want to get out there and fence,” said Delaney. “That’s what they tell me every day.”
A New Jersey native, Delaney began fencing in 2001 and in 2008 won a National Championship representing Ohio State University. He said he has seen fencing become increasingly diverse over his 20 years in the sport. “This sport has everything—the mental aspect, the physical aspect, high competition factor,” he said.
“The majority of the [FDU] girls are very excited to be a part of a Division I sport,” Delaney said. “It’s mixed levels of experience. We have some who have competed at the national level and I have one girl on my team who never fenced prior to college. I have a range of experience, but they’re eager to learn and they’re all excited about competing. They all want to compete for their school and grow as fencers and as people.”
Among the long-time athletes on the fencing team is graduate student Gabby Watson, who competes in epee. “I would honestly call her one of the rocks of the program,” Delaney said. “She’s been a consistent worker. She’s someone who has worked hard throughout her time at FDU. She had an injury setback her sophomore season, but has worked extremely hard to fight back from that. Because we didn’t compete last year, this is really her year to shine.”
The big goal for all the student-athletes is to make it to the National Championships in the spring. The fencing team competes again this weekend. They continue to train until they resume competition in January.
“The goal is always to reach the pinnacle,” said Delaney. “Coming from Ohio State, a big program like that, I try to bring that same energy to FDU. That’s something I like about the college game—representing your school…feeling like you’re part of something bigger than yourself.
“I really want to see FDU grow as a program,” he added. “I want to have as large a group of fencers as the big programs do and try to get as many people to qualify for NCAA [Championships] as possible.”