Every athlete knows there’s no “I” in team.
However, Penn men’s and women’s fencing will look to challenge this notion as they look towards their next major competition — the North American Cup, in Kansas City, Mo., this weekend.
The meet presents a unique challenge to the Quakers, as it isn’t a team competition, but rather an individually-based contest. The top fencing talent from all over the nation will go head-to-head in order to earn their spots on the U.S. National Junior (19U) and Cadet (17U) teams. The unique age brackets mean that most of the competitors representing the Red and Blue will be their freshmen — athletes still adjusting to the challenges of collegiate fencing.
Confidence will be key for the Quakers, who are fresh off their first competition of the season and who found success against national powerhouses such as Ohio State, Notre Dame and Penn State in last week’s Penn State Open. Using the momentum from their previous victories will be crucial in the grueling meet ahead.
“The North American Cup is a long day,” sophomore men’s captain Shaul Gordon said. “Last year, over 300 fencers competed in epee, and the competition lasted from 8 a.m. to 9:30 at night.
“Competitors have to make sure they’re there mentally and physically, and stay ready to perform throughout the day.”
The unique nature of fencing requires people to fence both nationally, internationally and collegiately to get to the top. Especially in an Olympic year, many NCAA fencers may decide to take the year off in order to try to make it to the games in Rio.
“It can be pretty difficult sometimes, but collegiate events and national events are pretty aware of each other and don’t overlap,” junior women’s captain Alejandra Trumble said. “Our season is packed with competition, but depending on the importance of the collegiate meet, we’ll let people compete internationally.
“We want to win as many meets as we can as a team, but in terms of titles, we focus on Ivies as well as maximizing individual standings,” she continued. “We also want to get as many people to NCAA’s as an individual as possible.”
Olympic dreams are difficult to bring to fruition, as there are only four spots per weapon on the Olympic team. This forces people to shift their mentality to focus on their teams and their NCAA standings.
“Collegiately, its the first time being on a team as a fencer,” Trumble said. “Though you have your club-mates [in your] pre-college career, people get into being on a team, and a more fun and social way of competing. We have team cheers and support each other.”
The Quakers look to a strong returning rotation, as well as fresh talent from a promising freshman class, to continue to dominate.
The men’s team is able to draw on previous experience on both the national and international stage, as Raphael Van Hoffelen and sophomore captain Zsombor Garzo have already been members of the British and Hungarian national squads, respectively, and freshman Raymond Chen represented the United States at the world juniors, capturing third.
Though the women’s squad is young, its attitude is optimistic for both a top Ivy League finish and a top national finish. After coming in second at the Ivy Championships this past year, the team is hungry for a championship.
Trumbel, for one, is keeping a positive outlook for her squad.
“We don’t have many seniors this year on the women’s side,” she said. “So with the talent already here combined with the freshman talent, this could be our year to win an Ivy title.”
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