After beating No. 1 Penn State last weekend, the Penn men’s fencing team will head to Waltham, Mass., where it will have the opportunity to prove its superiority against — in theory — inferior teams.
“It was a team effort,” junior Evan Prochniak said of last week’s upset.
Last year’s All-American won the decisive match for the Red and Blue (11-0) against the Nittany Lions.
As opposed to the Penn State Invitational, where the Quakers squared off against three top-10 teams, none of the five teams they will be facing at the Eric Sollee Invitational — Brandeis, MIT, NYU, Boston College or Brown — are currently ranked.
“I think I may have more rest this weekend, but we don’t want to lose,” Prochniak said. “We just need to go into Boston and fence well, stay tight as a group and just go into Ivies with all the momentum we can have.”
In addition to Prochniak, who is 16-2 this season, the Quakers can count on 14 other fencers who have winning records. Men’s sabre currently spots a stellar 73-26 record, while foil is 64-35 and epee 68-31.
The program’s fast start has brought them into the national spotlight. For two weeks in a row now, a Penn fencer has been honored as National Fencer of the Week by CollegeFencing360.com — first Clifford Fishler, followed by Prochniak.
“If we fence normally, we should have no problem to beat [this weekend’s teams], but you never know,” coach Andy Ma said. “We have to be 100 percent no matter if it’s a strong or a weak team.”
Ma’s formula for winning is simple: hard work. For him, beating the No. 1 team once isn’t enough. It’s “nice,” he said, but it doesn’t guarantee anything. He still thinks his team needs to get better.
“Every team has its strengths and weaknesses, so there are some things we need to work on — especially techniques, crucial moments, the 4-4 last touch,” the coach said. “We try to keep the team focused — that’s our job.”
The task will be a little bit tougher for the women’s squad (7-3), which still needs to find consistency to improve its 41-49 sabre and 46-44 epee records. Foil, on the other hand, has been impressive all season long with its 73-17 record, and that should continue this weekend.
If both the men and women can win it all in the Bay State, both teams will enter next week’s Ivy Championships with the confidence needed to earn a title, which would be the first since 2009 for the men and 2004 for the women.
“This weekend is kind of a rehearsal,” Ma said. “Hopefully the men will stay undefeated, but the Ivy championship will be more intense.”
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