Penn fencing is opening its season, lunging.
This past weekend, the Red and Blue matched up against Ohio State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Harvard and several other schools at the 43rd Penn State Open, setting an encouraging tone for the season.
“We showed a lot of potential. It’s a tough competition,” senior Shaul Gordon said. “We did have upperclassmen and some freshmen make it to final rounds, but there were some who were disappointed. They were all mentally and physically consistent though. There was a huge show of promise.”
For the past two years, the Quakers have placed eighth at the NCAA Championships in the combined men’s and women’s team score. In last year’s tournament, the men took fourth and the women finished in 14th place. With hopes to continue their success of previous years, the Red and Blue are looking toward a combination of fresh and returning talent, as well as hard work to help them win it all this year.
“[The] last two years we’ve been really close in the Ivy [League], but only number one gets the ring,” Gordon said. “And we’re going to make that happen. Even if we don’t win this year, we are definitely showing a lot of potential for the years to come.”
In preparation for the season, the team has gone through intense physical conditioning consisting of weight-training, running exercises and cross-training.
“We’re preparing our whole bodies, instead of just the muscles we use for fencing,” sophomore Arabella Uhry said. “We’ve also been practicing fencing and building up our techniques.”
The Quakers are also focusing on building on all three fencing squads: epee, sabre and foil.
“We have the perfect epee squad, and coach Slava [Danilov] is the perfect man to lead the [men and women’s] teams,” Gordon said. “We’re going to have to rely on them a lot in winning the upcoming Ivy and NCAA competitions.”
According to Uhry, Penn’s sabre fencers have the most room to grow.
“To break our eighth-place curse, [we need to] have an impact on the sabre squad, because we weren’t able to qualify anyone last year. The women really have to step up their game this year,” she said.
The foil squad welcomed several new additions in 2015-16, each of whom battled exceptionally well this past weekend at Penn State.
“We have a really strong freshman class, and the people returning are really well prepared,” Uhry added. “They’re also going to be really great with helping the freshmen get used to competing at the NCAA level.”
10 freshmen have joined the Quakers’ roster this year. Last season, recruiting was heavily centered on the men’s team, as nine of 13 freshmen were men. This year, the numbers fall in favor of the men once again as they gain six of the 10 rookies.
The freshman class has undoubtedly proven itself to be a force to be reckoned with, vis-a-vis its strong debut in State College. At Penn State, freshmen Aaron Ahn and Raymond Chen on the foil team finished 10th and 11th, respectively. Freshmen Kathryn Khaw and Katherine Sizov both advanced into championship rounds and placed in the top 10 of their respective divisions, sabre and epee. Sizov defeated the top seed, Penn State’s Nicolette Vigna, with a 15-9 upset in the first round.
The successes this weekend proved to be an uphill battle for the fencing team. Nevertheless, they came out of the Penn State Open relatively un-“touched” and more determined than ever.
“I lost a 15-14 battle to a pretty strong fencer from Penn State who won NCAA last year, but I’m hoping to build on that,” Gordon said.
“The next time we meet, it will be the other way around.”
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