The key to success is taking no days off.
Penn fencing, competing for the third weekend in a row, hit the road for the United States Collegiate Squad Championships this past weekend, heading to rival Princeton’s Jadwin Gym.
This meet wraps up a three-week stretch of tough competition for the Quakers, who had to battle through Ivy League Championships and last weekend’s Temple Invitational and the rescheduled Philly Invitational to take on No. 6 St. John’s and No. 1 Columbia on Sunday.
This weekend’s meet not only featured some of the top teams in the nation, but also offered the additional challenge of being an Olympic-style contest.
While fencers typically fight to a total of five points before resetting the score with the next opponent, in the Olympic style, fencers keep their points throughout three rounds of competition and fight to an individual point total of 15 and a total team score of 45.
“It’s tough mentally, but you can also fight your way back for the points you need,” senior sabre fencer and captain Shaul Gordon said. “In the NCAA Regional and NCAA Championship, the style will also be Olympic, so it’s good practice for those upcoming competitions.”
The novel tournament style, however, didn’t hold back the Red and Blue. On the men’s side, each weapon squad completed the tournament with a top-three finish, resulting in an overall tournament title for the third year in a row for the Quakers.
The men’s epee squad continued to dominate, defeating Brandeis, 45-31, and Ancient Eight rivals Yale, 45-43, and No. 8 Princeton, 45-31, en route to the title. Sophomore captain Zsombor Garbo, now ranked No. 1 in the nation, continued his outstanding season.
“He’s been unstoppable,” said Gordon of his co-captain.
“Justin Yoo is only a freshman,” Gordon added, “but he’s been doing great things for us this year. Jake Ranis also performed really well and helped us get the win.”
Ranis was a key factor in the win over Yale in the semifinals, as the Quakers trailed by nine points before Ranis rallied from behind for the win over the Bulldog’s Skyar Chin.
Though the epee group has consistently stolen the show for the Red and Blue, men’s sabre also posted a strong performance. The sabre group was the runner up only to St. John’s, who they fell to in a close 45- 40 loss.
Gordon contributed 20 touches to the point total, but it wasn’t enough to secure a first-place finish for the underclassman-dominated sabre squad — which includes freshmen Raphael Van Hoffelen and Julian Merchant.
Although Penn went into the competition ranked as the top seed, the men’s foil squad fell to a third-place finish, having to go up against Columbia to earn their place after falling to St. John’s. The young group managed to squeeze by the Lions, 45-37, in a balanced effort from freshmen Raymond Chen and Aaron Ahn as well as sophomore John Vaiani.
On the women’s side, No. 8 Penn brought some more hardware home, placing second overall against a strong field which included No. 3 Princeton, No. 1 Columbia and No. 7 St John’s.
The women’s epee squad found the most success, unseating the Tigers, 45-38, in the finals to clinch the a team tournament victory with the weapon. Sophomore Stephanie Wolf logged 18 of her 22 total points in the last matchup against the Tiger’s Audrey Abend, leading teammates freshman Katherine Sizov and junior captain Alejandra Trumble.
The women’s foil also was able to notch a medal placement, defeating Yale, 39-38, in the bronze medal round. Junior Cassidy Seidl, sophomore Sabrina Elkassas and freshman Naomi Popkin were able to fight their way back after a disappointing loss to Columbia 35-45.
Because of the strength of the Red and Blue’s recent schedule, late season injuries at a critical time could become a concern. However, the squad has remained relatively healthy throughout the long competition season, and is looking to rest and get quality training in before the NCAA Regionals on March 11-12 .
Though the key to success is sometimes taking no weekends off, the Quakers are looking forward to some downtime.
“We’re going to take Monday off and ease into more practice,” Gordon said.
“Ultimately, we’re trying to stay healthy and get as many people to the NCAA Championships as we can.”
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