After two months without a tournament, the men’s and women’s fencing teams bounced back into form as they competed in the Philadelphia Invitational held at Hutchinson Gym.
The women went 4-1 on Saturday, losing only to Northwestern, while the men, who fenced Sunday, went undefeated at 5-0.
The weekend’s tournament included teams from Duke, Johns Hopkins, Haverford and North Carolina. This was the first tournament since the Quakers’ season opener, the Penn State Open, on Nov. 20.
The men’s team beat its first opponent, Sacred Heart, Sunday morning after a controversial call and exciting series of events. Sophomore Joe Isaac was up against SHU fencer Justin Dion in an epee bout with Penn winning 13-12. In order to win the match, the team needed to win 14 bouts, each to five points.
Dion stepped off the strip. According to several fencers and one Penn coach, he did so before hitting Isaac, invalidating his point, but the director called it in his favor, bringing the match to an even 13-13.
Penn head coach Andy Ma jumped up to contest the point.
“I had to stand up for the team,” he said afterwards.
The director gave Ma a black card, kicking him out of the tournament, a decision that the bout committee quickly overruled.
“The [director] was a bit of an idiot,” said freshman Theodore Cohen. “She did it only because she [was] angry.”
Isaac proceeded to win the match with what Cohen called a “glorious counterattack.” Ma greeted him with a hug, and afterwards, assistant coach Randall LeMaster sought to downplay the controversy.
“Combat sport,” he explained. “Things get passionate.”
Besides the men’s 14-13 victory over Duke, the team won the rest of its matches by a wide margin, including an impressive 22-5 victory over Haverford.
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The women’s fencing team also posted a strong performance. The six foil fencers – a version of fencing in which you can score only by hitting the opponent’s torso with the point of your blade – had a particularly successful tournament. They went 9-0 against three separate opponents.
The women’s only loss was to Northwestern by the narrow margin of 15-12. In the match, saber and foil fencers both had winning records, but the epee fencers posted a poor performance, leading to the team’s defeat.
“Last year, [women’s epee] was known as the wrecking crew,” said LeMaster. “I would say that they are probably fencing a tad rusty.”
In epee, there are no rules regarding right of way and, in contrast to foil, the opponent’s entire body is valid target.
Sophomore Gabby Foor, who fences at the position, twisted her ankle falling down the stairs on Friday and fenced injured, a fact that may have contributed to the team’s defeat against Northwestern.
Both teams will both compete again next Saturday in State College at the Penn State Invitational. The United States Fencing Coaching Association currently ranks the Nittany Lions No. 1 for both men and women. Penn’s men’s and women’s teams are ranked No. 7 and No. 9, respectively.
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