“Can we go home now?”
Those were the words whispered by Samantha Abbott, sophomore epee from Sacred Heart fencing, after her last bout against Penn. Abbot proceeded to walk off the strip and feign a collapse. The Red and Blue were just that good.
To Abbott’s credit, she had just won her last matchup, but that proved to be an insignificant moment in Penn fencing’s monstrous day, as the Red and Blue went undefeated in both the men’s and women’s sides of the Philadelphia Invitational. The Quakers hosted their second invitational of the preseason at the Coach Dave Micahnik Center, and while many teams were welcomed, Penn made sure to claim its seat at the head of the table.
Both teams produced mirror 6-0 records on the day, posting wins against Duke, Haverford, NYU, and NJIT, and Sacred Heart. The men’s sixth win came against Drew, while the women closed their day with an impressive performance to defeat Temple.
For freshman foil Willie Upbin, the Philadelphia Invitational presented his first chance to fence at home, after he missed the season-opening home invitational for the Quakers due to illness.
“To fence at home, it was huge,” the Brooklyn native said. “My entire fraternity pledge class came, and to have the parents of the kids on the team [come], that was awesome.”
Upbin was sure to take advantage of his home debut, scoring a squad-high 11 wins for men’s foil. Upbin noted the importance of a strong rebound performance against NYU, after having two of his three losses for the day in the third match against Duke.
“[For me,] it was all about NYU; I definitely came into the day knowing I wanted to fence really well against them, because they have a tough foil team,” Upbin said. “So, starting off the first bout, winning 5-4, and getting a really clutch touch to win was probably the highest point of the day. It set everything else off.”
Upbin’s results contributed to a men’s team that was firing on all cylinders Saturday. Junior epee Jake Raynis produced an impressive 15 wins, the most for the men for the day. Freshman Connor Mills continued a strong first season with 10 wins to lead the saber squad. Overall, nine fencers recorded at least seven wins today, three from each men’s event squad.
The women looked even more impressive in their six wins, with nine of their fencers recording eight or more wins on the day. Also notable were the undefeated performances posted by the women, with junior Arabella Uhry, and seniors Cassidy Seidl and Alejandra Trumble posting no losses in their bouts in saber, foil, and epee respectively. Trumble also posted a team-high 16 wins to post a strong finish to her last Philadelphia Invitational.
While the big performances by seniors told the story, so too did the continued success of Penn’s surging freshmen contingent. Among them was saber Vicotria Zhang, who posted nine wins and only three losses in her second competition at the Coach Dave Micahnik Center.
Zhang chronicled the improvements she’s experienced from her first home competition to now.
“The first time I had no idea what to expect, and it was a little bit less exciting this time around because I knew what to expect,” the California native said. “But, then again, I had more freedom to fence how I fence naturally, because I knew how we were gonna do things.”
For Penn, the focus now shifts to February, headlined by the Ivy League Championships. Although the Quakers’ next event takes them to another invitational at Notre Dame, the squads are already thinking about what it will take to peak for the Championships.
“Obviously, Ivies has been the goal. It’s been in all of [our] ears since we got here,” Upbin said. “We want to repeat, that’s all we’ve been thinking about. NCAAs is way down the line. Regionals is way down the line; it’s been about Ivy’s since the second we got on campus.”
For Zhang, peaking means bringing the best for her team’s success.
“I really want to fence my best; I want to fence better than I have before. But whether I win or whether I lose, it’s not just for myself,” she said. “I have to remember that [Ivies] is a team effort.”
With the countdown to Ivies heating up, this most recent team effort was Penn’s best to date. You can tell it’s on the Quakers’ minds: repeat. Now, it’s up to the rest of the league to try and take it to them.
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