This past weekend, Penn fencing returned to Columbus, Ohio — where they started the season at the Ohio State Invitational — ready to end their season on a high note at the NCAA Championships.
Penn sent a total eight competitors to the championship, with six on the men’s side and two on the women’s. Overall, the team placed eighth out of 25 teams, with the men finishing fourth and the women finishing in 14th place. In last year’s tournament, the Quakers also achieved an eighth-place result, with a sixth-place finish on the men’s side and a ninth-place finish for the women.
“There were three main factors which I feel led to our success this season,” coach Andy Ma said. “From the start, I really tried to emphasize team bonding and team spirit. Secondly, we focused on cross-training and serious conditioning, which led to fewer injuries than last season. A third key to our success was that we decided to hire specific coaches for each of the weapons, which allowed our fencers to seek individualized attention for their events.”
On top of the team-wide success, several individuals finished near the top of their respective events. Four Quakers — freshman foil John Vaiani, freshman epees Jake Raynis and Zsombor Garzo, and senior sabre Steven Yang — were named All-Americans following the tournament, and Vaiani, Raynis and Garbo each finished within the top 10 in their events. Vaiani was awarded a spot on the first team All-America list after a third-place finish.
In addition to the All-American performances, sophomore epee Alejandra Trumble, junior sabre Shaul Gordon, senior captain foil Jason Chang, and senior captain Sarah Parmacek finished 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th in their respective events.
“I think that the NCAAs allow us to face off against tough teams, which serves as a valuable experience for our team,” Ma said. “The increase in international students participating in recent years has made the tournament even more competitive than before.”
While the season might officially be over, there is an expectation that team members will continue to stay in shape in anticipation of next year. “While all off-season training is strictly voluntary, we encourage everyone on the team to continue participating in tournaments on an individual basis. The key is really to keep conditioning,” Ma said.
As the fencing season comes to a close, Penn sets its sights on next fall, when they will try to repeat the successes they achieved this year.
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