After some mixed results at the Northwestern Duals, both No. 3 Penn men’s and No. 9 women’s fencing are hoping for positive results in Ithaca, N.Y., as the Quakers head to Cornell this weekend to compete in the Ivy League Championships.
“There’s a pretty good mentality going into the Championships. The women’s team is relatively young. The men’s team is ranked third in the nation. Both are very strong,” coach Andy Ma said.
Both teams are looking forward to the competition that the Ivy League will offer, especially from Columbia, Harvard and Princeton, as the tournament provides a good sense of how the teams might fare at NCAAs.
“Competing against top schools like Columbia who is No. 1 in men’s and No. 2 in women’s gives us a good idea of how we will do at the NCAAs,” Ma said — a sentiment with which his teams agree.
“The Ivies are definitely characterized by intense competition. Everyone who competes in it trains pretty much all year to try to win the title. It’s a completely different atmosphere that I haven’t experienced at any other invitational,” sophomore John Vaiani said.
Of course, although an Ancient Eight title would be the cherry on top of an already successful season for Penn fencing, a much sweeter prize would be having fencers qualify for the NCAAs and taking home a title there.
“This is really a big tournament for us, but it’s honestly still practice because we’re not competing against all schools or the best schools like Notre Dame or Ohio State,” sophomore Stephanie Wolf said.
“The Ivy League does dominate the top ten, so how we do here will reflect how we do later on,” Vaiani added.
A large concern throughout this season has been the rookie class on the women’s team. Entering this season with hopes to improve from last year’s season, the women’s team had goals to step up its game in its sabre squad and build off of previous success in its foil and epee squads.
Thus far, the women have shown definite progress towards their ambitions by way of their performance at the Northwestern Duals in Indiana. The sabre squad was the only team to secure a win over No. 6 Ohio State — and the question remains whether or not they can keep up the momentum.
“There’s a lot of pressure going into the Ivy, especially on the women’s team because we have a very new team this year,” Wolf said. “I know the men’s team is going in with the goal of kicking butt, but for the women a lot of it will be individual work and victories.”
“The women’s team has had a bit of difficulty because a lot of really good people graduated last year, but I think they’re really finding their footing,” Vaiani said.
On the other hand, the freshman class on the men’s team has been consistent in showing talent and skill throughout the season. Beginning with a strong debut at Penn State in November and carrying that success through the rest of the season, the freshmen will now have to rise to the challenge of maintaining their streak heading into post-season play.
Like their rivals in the Ancient Eight, the Red and Blue have been preparing avidly for this title fight. From a new work-out regimen to practices graced by Drake and Future’s “Jumpman,” the Quakers seem to be ready to take on any challenge they will face.
“We’re not only working hard, we’re working one-on-one individually according to everyone’s physical and mental condition. We want to work in a way that’s smart,” Ma said.
“This weekend, I want for us, as a team, to come out of Ivies stronger,” Wolf said.
“That way, we will go into the NCAA a better team.”
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