But "thrive" is exactly what Columbia first-year Jackie Dubrovich did on her first day of the 2013 NCAA Championships at San Antonio's Freeman Coliseum.
Dubrovich won 13 of 15 bouts, defeating all but two of the nation's top collegiate foil fencers. Not once in those 13 victories was she forced into a 4-4 situation, going to 4-3 (before getting the fifth touch) just four times.
Among Dubrovich's 5-3 victims were Madison Zeiss of Notre Dame (currently fourth), Ambika Singh of Princeton, and Marta Hausman of St. John's. She topped Clarisse Luminet of Penn State (11th), Luona Wang of Penn (5th), and Angelica Gangemi of Cornell (8th) by 5-1 margins, plus Alex Kiefer of Harvard (7th), Alina Antokhina of Penn State, Evgeniya Kirpicheva of St. John's (10th) and teammate D'Meca Homer by 5-2 tallies.
She forced her only two losing bouts into fierce 5-4 confrontations, against tournament leader Lee Kiefer of Notre Dame and sixth-place Eve Levin of Princeton.
"Jackie tore it up today," head coach Michael Aufrichtig said, "and she's looking to tear it up tomorrow. She had some strong wins today, but tomorrow will not be easy."
Dubrovich will face both Mona Shaito, the tournament co-leader with Lee Kiefer, and Mai Shaito of Ohio State on Sunday, as well as Mary McElwee of Air Force and Fatima Largaespada of Temple.
Epeeist Diana Tsinis will also look to move up after a day of hard-luck fencing. The sophomore went just 6-9 after a strong start, an incredible four of her losses coming in overtime.
"After starting 5-2, I expected to do a lot better," Tsinis said. "[But] this tournament is extremely difficult, both mentally and physically, at all times."
The epee field, Tsinis explained, was especially difficult this year. "There are two Olympians in epee this year; the top 15 to 20 college fencers are all here. This is like an international tournament!"
Tsinis had some excellent wins, beating Nina Van Loon of Harvard ("always a rival") by 5-4 and the St. John's duo of Zsofia Fath and Alina Ferdman, both by 5-3 scores. She also fenced well in a 4-3 loss to internationalist Francesca Bassa of Stanford.
Tsinis's fellow Lion epeeist, Natalie Gegan, struggled in her first NCAA tournament, winning just three bouts. She beat Gabriella Foor of Penn, Olivia Andragna of Boston College, and Tsinis herself.
"Natalie was very nervous today," Diana noted. "I think we're going to do better Sunday; all the nervousness will be out."
The Lions' senior sabre combo of Loweye and Essane Diedro will also look to move up. Loweye Diedro won eight of 15 her first day, including victories over Harvard's formidable duo of Kara Lee (5-2) and Aliya Itzkowitz (5-0), two Stanford fencers, and St. John's Margaret McDonald. Loweye just missed a win over All-America Anna Limbach, also of St. John's, 5-4, as she finished the day in 10th place.
Essane Diedro aggravated an old injury and struggled, winning five of 15. She beat both Stanford fencers by a combined 10-4 score, Robin Shin of MIT and Jackie Leval of NYU by 5-3 scores, and posted a courageous injury-interrupted 5-4 win over Temple's Tiki Castor.
Sunday will mark the final day of the 2013 NCAA Championships, beginning at 9 a.m.
The Day Three results:
NCAA M&W Fencing Championships (Day Three)
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Freeman Coliseum, San Antonio, Texas
1. Princeton, 146 points (victories); 2. Notre Dame, 139; 3. Penn State, 138; 4. Ohio State, 127; 5. Harvard, 115; 6. St. John's, 112; 7. Stanford, 94; 8. COLUMBIA, 93; 9. Penn, 83; 10. Yale, 35; 11. Northwestern, 31; 12. Duke, 31; 13. North Carolina, 30; 14. Brown, 23; 15. Wayne State, 23; 16. NYU, 22; 17. MIT, 19; 18. Sacred Heart, 19; 19. Temple, 19; 20. Brandeis, 18; 21. Cornell, 16; 22. Air Force, 16; 23. UCSD, 10; 24. Boston College, 6; 25. Drew, 3
Individual Standings (leaders and Columbia fencers, with victories)
1. Eliza Stone, Princeton, 13
2. Allison Miller, Ohio State, 12;
3. Jessica Russo, Penn State, 12
4. Anna Limbach, St. John's, 11
5. Gracie Stone, Princeton, 10
6. Nicole Glon, Penn State, 10
7. Lian Osier, Notre Dame, 10
8. Gillian Lytinski, UNC, 10
9. Kara Lee, Harvard, 9
10. Loweye Diedro, COLUMBIA, 8
20. Essane Diedro, COLUMBIA, 5
1. Lee Kiefer, Notre Dame, 14
2. Mona Shaito, Ohio State, 14
3. Jackie Dubrovich, Columbia, 13
4. Madison Zeiss, Notre Dame, 11
5. Luona Wang, Penn, 10
6. Eve Levin, Princeton, 10
7. Alexandra Kiefer, Harvard, 9
8. Angelica Gangemi, Cornell, 9
9. Dayana Sarkisova, Northwestern, 8
10. Evgeniya Kirpicheva, St. John's, 8
11. Clarisse Luminet, Penn State, 8
22. D'Meca Homer, COLUMBIA, 2
1. Susannah Scanlan, Princeton, 13
2. Margherita Guzzi Vincenti, Penn State, 11
3. Courtney Hurley, Notre Dame, 11
4. Vivian Kong, Stanford, 11
5. Ewa Nelip, Notre Dame, 10
6. Katarzyna Dabrowa, Ohio State, 10
7. Katherine Holmes, Princeton, 10
8. Courtney Dumas, Northwestern, 10
9. Francesca Bassa, Stanford, 10
10. Dina Bazarbayeva, Northwestern, 9
16. Diana Tsinis, COLUMBIA, 6
22. Natalie Gegan, COLUMBIA, 3