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Coming off a victorious outing at Penn State’s Garret Open, Junior sabre Michael Mills will try to continue his winning ways at the Vassar Invitational in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., along with the rest of the Penn fencing squad.

Photo: Frances Hu / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Last year, the Penn men’s and women’s fencing teams got off to a fast start. The men went undefeated, and the women lost only one match when they hosted the Philadelphia Invitational.

This year, the Quakers hope to begin just as well in their first regular season tournament as they travel to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., for the Vassar Invitational.

“We expect to win,” coach Andy Ma said of both his squads.

The Quakers will face the North Carolina, Vassar, Sacred Heart and NYU. The women also play Temple. Of those four teams, Sacred Heart is expected to be the most challenging opponent for the men.

“We are not worried, but last year [the men] beat Sacred Heart by one bout,” Ma said. “We finally won in one touch. Very, very close. Hopefully, this year we get off to a better start.”

Ma expects the Owls to be the women’s most difficult foe.

“For the women against Temple, it will be very close,” Ma said. “Either we win by one or two points or lose by one or two points.”

Ma said he has pushed the team to work harder this year than last. Though he was content with his team’s effort last season, he says that each year, he wants to push his team to a higher level.

“Last year was very good … We try to train a little bit harder every year,” he said. “We become a little more competitive so we can be at the top of the field in the nation.”

One aspect that the coaches will be observing is the performance of freshman Ayyub Ibrahim. He comes to Penn after winning silver in the USA Fencing National Championships.

“He will be the star for our team,” Ma said.

After the Vassar Invitational, the fencing teams have three more tournaments until the Ivy League round robins in February. They will face higher-ranked opponents including the traditionally formidable Penn State. For now, Ma said that he simply wants to start the season strong.

“I just want to make sure that everyone has a good start and that no one gets injured.”

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