For Penn fencing, this weekend is all about Ivy.
The Quakers head to Brown to compete in the Ivy League Championships. The No. 8 men’s and women’s teams are both coming off successful weekends at the Northwestern University Duals, each defeating No. 4 men’s/No. 3 women’s Notre Dame, Northwestern and Stanford.
Both Penn squads will square off with three of the top ten teams in the country — Princeton, Harvard and Columbia — when they get to Providence.
Coach Andy Ma described his team’s goals and spoke about what it will take to win the league championship.
“For the men’s team, we hope we win the Ivies this year. Last year we got second; we were one touch short,” Ma said. “For the women, I don’t think we’re ready to win the first place yet. Hopefully we can get top three this season.
“But Penn, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton are all top men’s teams and are very close. Either team could win. If we have a good day we’ll win; if we have a bad day we’ll be number four, and if we have a decent day we’re number two or number three.”
Men’s senior co-captain Michael Mills, last season’s NCAA champion in sabre, has never posted a losing record in Ivy League championship duals.
In epee, junior Rene Gannon-O’Gara won duals against Yale and Brown in the Ivy League championships, and he knows how important an Ancient Eight title would be for the program.
“It’s one of our major goals for the year, every year,” Gannon-O’Gara said. “Because our school is in the Ivy League, which is unlike most fencing schools, we have the ability to compete for this against some of the top fencing schools and academic schools in the country.”
Asked about specific matchups, Gannon-O’Gara sees his team’s opening duals as a chance to open the championships with a bang.
“On the first day of competition we have Columbia right off the bat and then Harvard right after them,” Gannon-O’Gara said. “Those two teams are probably our toughest competition. Princeton is pretty good, but those two are definitely the top guns that we’re looking at.
“Like our coaches have been telling us, if we really hustle, warm up and make sure we’re ready right off the bat, then we’re easily as good of fencers as them.”
The women’s team lost at the Penn-Princeton Invitational in November, 19-8, and will likely have to go through the Tigers in order to win the league crown.
In foil, freshman Cassidy Seidl alongside junior captains Sarah Parmacek and Luona Wang helped lead the Quakers to last week’s victory over Notre Dame.
Freshman sabre Shriya Joshi recognizes the importance of the rematch with the Tigers in the context of the matchup with the conference.
“I think it’s a lot of more competitive usually because we don’t face any of the other Ivy League schools during the regular season, so I feel like we’ve been working towards this,” she said.
“I think that Princeton is definitely one of our biggest competitors. They have a lot of really strong people across all of their weapons. I think they’re going to be really tough.”
But Penn fencing isn’t about to back down from a challenge.