As many people start their new years with resolutions and hope, the Penn fencing team is following suit in preparation for a trophy-laden 2016.
Coach Andy Ma and the fencing program sent 14 of their finest to St. Louis last weekend to this season’s final edition of the North American Cup.
Although the team did not perform up to the standard of their previous two North American Cups, Ma still found positives to draw from the event.
“They’re doing pretty good,” he said. “We didn’t have any guys at the top, but some of them got to the last 32, so pretty good.”
Those top-32 performances came from Julian Merchant, Arabella Uhry, Stephanie Wolf and Alejandra Trumble. Merchant placed 17th in Division I men’s sabre, while Uhry placed 22nd in D-I women’s sabre. Wolf also came in 22nd for the junior women’s epee category, and team co-captain Trumble rounded out Penn’s highlights with a 31st place in the D-I women’s epee section.
Several factors could explain the Quakers’ subpar performance, but Ma believes that the long break was the most important.
“They had a long holiday, and this was their first meet back,” he said. “They really don’t have that much training, and they came back and had only two days’ camp. Overall, [the result was] pretty good.”
Penn’s third and final North American Cup of the season came directly on the back end of the holiday break, so the coach was quick to play down the event’s importance.
“The previous two North American Cups, they were already in good shape,” Ma said, “because we started training in September. This one was different. It was kind of a warm-up.”
He hoped that the meet would get the gears turning for his fencers in anticipation of his ultimate target for the season.
“Our goal is to win the Ivy,” Ma continued. “We have three more meets to prepare for the Ivy. It is most important for us to shoot not for this weekend or next weekend, but the Ivy.”
By taking off the pressure from the team’s immediate schedule, Ma explained, his fencers would be able to peak at the right time.
“We don’t want to push too much now, or the kids get injured,” he said. “We’ll be very cautious. We don’t want anyone getting injured before the Ivies.”
Such a strategy, which calls for less strenuous work for now, may have inadvertently also boosted team morale.
“This year the team spirit is really good,” Ma said. “We have a lot of team bonding activity, and we have weapons coaches who work with the fencers. Every week we have a team meeting, captains’ meeting, so this year it looks good.”
With a tight-knit squad like the current one, the gaps in quality between fencers is at a minimum. Even the head coach is finding it difficult to tell who his Ivy League title-challenging squad will be.
“At this time, all fencers are pretty much even,” Ma said. “Maybe in the next couple weeks we will see who stands out.”
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.