It was a bittersweet few days for the Red and Blue.
This past weekend, Penn fencing dominated the arenas of Philadelphia during the Temple Invitational and the Quakers’ very own Philadelphia Invitational. Although the squad faced off against a litany of competitive schools, the women’s team came out of the weekend with a total record of 6-3, while the men’s team went undefeated with a perfect 9-0 mark.
The Temple Invitational marked one of the high points in season that has already included a share of an Ivy title for the men’s team as it secured a victory over longtime rival Princeton. The Red and Blue also dominated other top schools including No. 4 Penn State and No. 6 St. John’s.
For the women’s squad, the battles on Saturday proved to be much tougher, as the Quakers were dealt losses to Princeton and Penn State. Coach Andy Ma remained optimistic about the women’s squad, pointing to its victories the following day on its home turf.
“Our team is really a home team,” Ma said. “We compete so much better here because we have all of our fans — friends and family — cheering us on. That presence is just so good for the team, spiritually.”
Additionally, the women’s sabre squad — this season’s underdog team –– came through with remarkable success. Any doubt about the team at the beginning of the year was utterly demolished this past weekend, as freshman Kathryn Khaw and sophomore Arabella Uhry each contributed five wins to the sabre record.
“The men’s and women’s teams train together, and it’s really nice to see everyone improve and grow throughout the season,” senior R.J. Shipp said.
“We have been very consistent thus far in our competition,” Ma added. “And I really think that’s what is so important.”
Sunday’s meet, the Philadelphia Invitational, marked the last home meet for the team’s seniors. Crowned as Red and Blue’s Senior Day, the one-day invitational featured a special ceremony for the senior fencers. And it was only right that the successes of Sunday were marked by nostalgia and sadness for some.
“I’ve seen this day coming for a long time,” Shipp said. “I know I’m going to be continuing on with fencing after graduation, but today was still very sad for me.”
Like his athletes, Ma shares in the feeling of finality that this last home meet brings.
“We are going to be losing a lot of great fencers. Not only that, our team is fairly new and so there will be a loss of experience,” he said.
However, he believes that in the coming years, the underclassmen will rise to the occasion and maintain the program’s status as a national powerhouse.
“We got so many good freshmen this year,” Ma said, “That it will not be difficult to exceed the expectations that will be established.”
“The beginning of the season was definitely an adjustment period for some of our newer fencers, but I really think they know what they’re doing now,” Shipp added.
With the season almost at an end, the Quakers are gearing up for the final important meets of the season, namely the NCAA Championships.
“The entire team is actually going to be staying at Penn all of spring break to train,” Shipp said. “We want to take all the qualifying spots we can for both men’s and women’s.
“It’s now or never.”
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