Undefeated and the only team to knock off No. 1 Penn State, the Penn men’s fencing team will enter this weekend’s Ivy League tournament confident but cautious.
The Quakers will take on rivals No. 2 Princeton and No. 3 Harvard in New Haven, Conn., with a chance to take home their first Ivy title in three years.
“If we just stay focused and do what we’ve been doing all year, I think that we’re going to take it home,” senior captain Zane Grodman said.
The Penn men are 16-0, while the Tigers are currently 14-2 on the season. The Crimson are at a less impressive 5-5, but have had to face powerhouses Notre Dame, Ohio State and twice with Penn State.
The Red and Blue have also had a difficult schedule, a testament to how impressive their undefeated record actually is. They knocked off the No. 1 Nittany Lions two weeks ago and have taken down Duke, Sacred Heart and NYU at other meets this season.
“We’re one of the last undefeated teams in the country, so that says a lot about this team’s mental strength going into the Ivy League,” Grodman said. The Quakers are actually the only unbeaten team in the country.
However, the Ivy League is arguably the best conference in the nation. Both coach Andy Ma and Grodman emphasized that every match will be difficult.
“There are no gimme bouts,” Grodman said. “Every bout is tough.”
This would be the first Ivy title for Ma, currently in his third season as the helm.
The team’s star may be Evan Prochniak, who is 23-2 on the season, but all nine starters have performed well this year — seven out of nine have won more than 70 percent of the their bouts.
“[They are] all valuable,” Ma explained. “This is a team sport.”
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At 11-4, the women’s team is also having an excellent season, with an undefeated foil squad.
However, they face an uphill battle. If they are going to win the Ivy Championship, they must beat No. 7 Harvard and No. 2 Princeton. The women have suffered four narrow losses, two of which were by a single point.
“I cannot say that we have no chance to win the Ivy, but we’re going to do our best,” Ma said.
According to the coach, the three sabre fencers who were previously injured are back to full health, which should prove helpful in the tournament.
However, the Penn women are still extremely young. Of the 15 fencers on the team, six are freshman and four are sophomores.
“Even if we don’t win, with the way our team is set up — maybe next year, maybe two years from now — we’ll be in a really good position,” freshman foil Sarah Parmacek said.
Ma said he believes the Red and Blue women’s foil may be the “best in the country,” but he is looking for improvement from epee and sabre.
“Women’s epee, women’s sabre [are] good,” he said. “But not perfect yet.”