In its final hurrah of the 2015-16 season, Penn fencing fought through four days of intense competition at NCAA Championships in Waltham, Mass., to take eighth and score 98 points. In addition to the top-ten team finish, four Quakers earned All-American honors.
The highlight of individual performances came from senior captain Shaul Gordon, a saber specialist. Through two days of Olympic style competition, the Canadian tallied a record of 14-9, which was good for sixth place and an All-American finish.
“I came in trying to win,” Gordon said. “I came close as a freshman and a sophomore, and now I’m a senior. That didn’t happen, but I’m glad I made it into the top eight.”
Joining the senior as All-Americans on the men’s side were epee specialists freshman Justin Yoo and sophomore Zsombor Garzo. Yoo’s record of 14-9 earned him a seventh place finish while Garzo’s 12-11 performance put him in eleventh.
Arabella Uhry was the sole woman to earn All-American honors for Penn. The sophomore took tenth in sabre with a record of 12-11.
Despite the handful of impressive performances, many Quakers walked away from the national stage disappointed with Penn’s showing.
“I think we underperformed as a team,” Gordon said. “A few weeks ago, we were named No. 1 as a team in the country. A lot of our guys wanted to make All-American and to stand on the podium, but we weren’t really able to do that.”
This year’s eighth place finish matches the team’s performance at nationals from 2014-15. But the consistency of results at NCAA’s doesn’t reflect just how much stronger the team grew under coach Andy Ma’s direction in 2015-16.
“We only lost two bouts this year — one against Columbia, and one against Princeton — and we were able to beat both of them the second time around,” Gordon said. “But the competition was really tough [at NCAA’s]. Especially this year, the field was really good.”
Later, at Ivy League Championships in February, the men’s team was able to match a dominant Columbia squad, with each team earning a share of a three-way tie for first. The Ancient Eight crown was Penn’s first since 2009 on the men’s side.
“I don’t think [Columbia and Princeton] were necessarily better, I just think they performed better at this specific competition,” Gordon said.
Indeed, the Lions would go on to take home their second-consecutive national title in 2015-16, a streak Penn had hoped to stop this year.
Despite a result that was perhaps lower than expected, Gordon and the rest of his team are not walking away from the year with a bitter taste in their mouths.
“We worked hard for NCAAs as well, and even though we didn’t get the result we wanted, I’m pretty happy about the team as a whole and the work we put in this year,” he said.
“It was a great run.”
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