There are certain points in every season when a team has a chance to put a sword in the ground to stake its claim for success.
Penn fencing will hope to justify its top-tier status and potentially usurp another fencing powerhouse when it attends the Elite Invitational on Saturday.
After a strong showing at the Penn State Open a couple weeks earlier, the Red and Blue are hoping to build upon their individual performances for the first team meet of the season.
No travel is required for the fencers from Philly as they prepare to host a score of other fencing teams in the Elite Invitational, including last year’s fourth and fifth place teams in the nation, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
Such a highly competitive event will prepare the Quakers for bouting at the highest level, against teams they will likely see again come March.
Because the Invitational is the first team event of the season, coach Andy Ma is looking to the depth of his squad to step up and help his team take down close rivals Notre Dame and Ohio State.
And his team is deeper than it was last year with the addition of a stacked freshman class, who have exceeded expectations so far. One of those talented freshmen is Raymond Chen.
Last week, Chen traveled to Kansas City and took bronze in foil at the North American Cup.
“[Getting hardware so quickly]’s been kind of surprising, honestly,” Chen said. “Usually my fencing is really up and down, so having this consistency is really nice.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” the Dallas native continued. “But with the help of my teammates, I’ll be able to improve a lot more.”
With such newfound depth, Ma feels that the team is more than well-prepared to go toe-to-toe with Notre Dame.
“It’ll be a good test to see how everyone performs on a team-wide basis,” sophomore sabre Arabella Uhry echoed.
“Notre Dame is a really tough team, and they do well every year,” she continued. “So they will be good competition for us.
“Notre Dame is considered a very intimidating team. It’s really going to be about taking it one bout at a time, and fighting to the best of our ability. What else can you do against a strong team?”
“I’m really looking forward to Notre Dame,” Chen said. “They have a really strong men’s foil team. I know a lot of fencers on their team, and I’m really close friends with one of them. It’ll be really good to see how we match up.”
Matching up with Notre Dame along with Ohio State at the Elite Invitational should provide the Quakers a litmus test to see if they are ready to stake their claim for a potential national title bid.
And if they can step up, they will surely plant a sword in the ground for all to see.
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