The final tune-up before the battle for the Ivy League saw Penn fencing pitted against some of the best the rest of the nation has to offer.
The Red and Blue trekked to South Bend, Ind., on Saturday to compete in the Northwestern Duals.
On the men’s side, the No. 3 Quakers dominated, going 5-0. For the men, the highlight of the day was a thrilling 14-13 win over their hosts, No. 2 Notre Dame. It was the Quakers’ second win over the Irish this season. Penn also notched its second win over No. 7 Ohio State, 16-11, while sweeping the unranked trio of Stanford (a 15-12 victory), UC-San Diego (21-6) and Air Force (18-9).
“The men’s team this season, we’ve practiced hard, worked hard, we’ve trained hard and we have pretty good fencers,” coach Andy Ma said. “So last weekend we struggled a little bit because we played a lot of (powerhouse) teams, but we still won. We won but it was very close.”
Freshman Justin Yoo had a dominant day on epee, going 12-3, while sophomore Zsombor Garzo went 11-3. Ma was particularly pleased with the performance sophomore Jake Raynis, who went 8-4 on epee. Senior Shaul Gordon came up big for the saber squad with an 11-3 record, while sophomore John Vaiani’s 9-3 record led the foil crew.
On the women’s side, the No. 9 Quakers had a rougher go of it, beating Stanford (16-11) and Air Force (18-9) but falling to No. 2 Notre Dame (24-3), No. 5 Northwestern (20-7), No. 6 Ohio State (19-8) and unranked UC-San Diego (14-13).
The women were led by freshmen Katherine Khaw, who finished 10-6 on sabre, and Naomi Popkin, who went 9-9 on foil. Sophomore Stephanie Wolf led the way on epee with 8 wins.
“The women’s team had a couple [of] good fencers that did not go. We have a few girls who were sick or had small injuries,” Ma said. “Next week will be the Ivy Championship, so we were very conservative, we pulled some good fencers out.”
The Northwestern Duals were the final meet before those Ivy League Championships, which will be played this coming weekend at Cornell. Ma is optimistic the men’s team will build on what has been a strong season so far.
“We are very strong this year, but we have to perform well. We have a chance to win the Ivy. So far, there are three or four strong teams. Columbia is ahead of us because they won the NCAA Championship last season and this year have the #1 ranking. And Harvard and Princeton are always strong. So we have to perform well.”
The women finished second last year, but Ma kept his expectations grounded.
“Last year we had a couple superstars graduate. This year we’re still a relatively young team, so hopefully we can maintain top three, top four for this season. That’s our goal.”
The Quakers will go up against all seven of their Ancient Eight foes this weekend in the round-robin frenzy that determines the Ivy champion. The stiff competition will be nothing new.
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