En garde...ready...fencing season!
On Saturday, Penn fencing got its season underway with a strong performance at its home exhibition, the Elite Invitational. The women’s squad recorded a 4-2 finish against a nationally esteemed field, while the defending conference champion men went 4-1.
“Today we showed a lot of potential,” senior sabre captain Isaac Buchwald said. “But this whole fencing season is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. We want to make sure we keep a good stable consistent mindset, and keep fencing harder and faster.”
The men started off their marathon with impressive victories against Notre Dame and NJIT on their way to a 4-1 finish. The men also defeated John’s Hopkins and UNC, only falling to defending national runner-up Ohio State. The women pulled out wins over UNC, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, NJIT and Ohio State to finish 5-1 on the day, with their lone loss coming to the Fighting Irish.
For the men, the sabre squad went undefeated against all five teams, led by squad captain Buchwald, who won five of his six bouts. In addition, the freshman duo of Adam Green and Connor Mills scored eight wins each.
The women’s sabre squad also led the team with five wins. Freshman Victoria Zhang recorded nine wins in her weapon class. The foil class was highlighted by strong freshman performances. Nicole Vaiani registered 10 wins, the most for the Quakers, while Inbar Tivon went undefeated on the day. In epee, senior captain Alejandra Trumble led her squad with eight wins.
“We did really well,” Trumble said. “The first tournament is always the hardest. You’re getting used to it and it’s always a new team each year.”
The highlight of the day for the men’s squad came in its last match with an entertaining 14-13 win over NJIT. After the Quakers and the Highlanders eked out respective 5-4 wins in the sabre and foil classes, the match would be decided by men’s epee.
In this crucial moment, the Quakers stepped up. Returning All-American and junior Zsombor Garzo went undefeated in three bouts against the Highlanders. From there, junior Jake Raynis and All-American and sophomore Justin Yoo each notched a win to give Penn the decisive 5-4 victory.
Buchwald was impressed with the Quakers’ resilience.
“We fenced hard,” the sabre captain said. “[We] hit very aggressively and showed a lot of fight, even when we were down. That’s what’s important for [us].”
For the women, their highlight performance came against UNC. Women’s foil led the team with eight wins against the Tar Heels, led by three wins from Vaiani. Wins from All-American and junior Arabella Uhry in sabre and sophomore Katherine Sizov in epee helped secure a 16-11 victory for the Quakers.
Coach Andy Ma spoke on how well both teams handled the long schedule.
“Today’s tournament was seven rounds. It took almost 11 hours,” Ma said. “It’s part of our sport. It’s not just about the minutes on the strip, it’s about consistency and endurance.”
The invitational included 11 women’s teams and eight men’s teams. Seven rounds were had and most teams were only granted one bye round. For Ma, the cohesion of his teams helped them withstand the grueling schedule.
“Our team spirit, our team chemistry is better than ever,” the eighth-year coach said. “Everyone cares, and everyone supports each other.”
Trumble echoed her coach’s sentiments.
“It’s a lot about the team,” the Cambridge, Mass. native said. “This is an individual sport coming in from high school, and where the team stuff comes in is you can really pump each other up if someone’s having a hard day.”
The Red and Blue will continue their preseason preparations at the November North American Cup in Milwaukee. Only a few fencers wim,ll compete at the individual event.
For Ma, this marks another step in the process to help prepare his teams to contend for an Ivy championship. If Saturday’s performance was any indication, all teams should be en garde when it comes time to face the Quakers.
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