In the run-up to Saturday’s Penn State Invitational, fencing coach Andy Ma is prepared to play mind games with opposing coaches.
And to prevent his female fencers from losing to Temple for a second time, he is ready to try anything.
“We’re going to change the lineup orders … Usually, we don’t change, but Temple always changes up,” Ma said before casting doubt on whether this was, in fact, his game plan. “Maybe they’ll feel this is fake. Who knows whether they [will] believe this or not when they read it.”
Sophomore Luona Wang emphasized more fundamental strategies.
“We’ve been doing footwork and we’ve been doing handwork to get us prepared for this weekend,” Wang said.
Women’s fencing suffered a heartbreaking first loss of the season in a one-point defeat to Temple at the Vassar Invitational in early December. This Saturday, the team will face a rematch with the Owls as well as matches against Haverford, North Carolina, Duke and powerhouse Penn State.
“We’re all pretty psyched,” Wang said.
For the men, the tournament will be their first true test of the season. After easily beating four opponents at the Vassar Invitational, they will also face North Carolina, Duke and Penn State. The latter two were ranked in the top 10 teams by collegefencing360.com at the end of last season. The Nittany Lions especially promise to be a formidable foe.
“This tournament is pretty important for setting a rhythm for the season,” junior Michael Mills said.
And the Penn State Invitational will be the first in a long string of dual meets.
Mills will have to face an old rival, Penn State’s Adrian Bak. Bak is a top sabre fencer for the Nittany Lions as well as a former training mate of Mills at the Peter Westbrook Foundation in New York City.
“He’s definitely among the best in the NCAAs,” Mills said. “Me, him, and [Penn senior] Evan [Prochniak] are all pretty competitive and around the same level.”
Mills also emphasized the importance of the Penn State Invitational in relation to the team’s ultimate goal: winning the Ivy League Round-Robins in February.
“If we can go undefeated here, have the momentum coming into the season early, continue that through Ivies, and, hopefully, take away the Ivy League championship,” Mills said. “I think that’s what we all have our eyes on right now.”