“Alright, we’ve had our fun over the last couple of days, but may the real Ivy League championship contenders step forward...”
Entering from stage right is coach Andy Ma and Penn fencing, poised this weekend to take another shot at collecting the coveted Ivy League Fencing Championship titles.
The setting: The Red and Blue’s own Coach Dave Micahnik Center. The Quakers will bring with them not just home-field advantage, but an extra energy that comes from the knowledge that their third home meet carries great significance. Of course, if you ask them, this weekend’s competition is business as usual.
“No change; we’ll just keep [our] momentum,” Ma chuckled. “We’ll still work on our individual fencers, as always.”
Still, for an impressive freshmen contingent, Ivies represent another excitable unknown.
“I hear all the upperclassmen talk about how well we did last year and how important it is that we keep it up,” freshman foil Danielle Ferdon said. “Hopefully, the women can do what the guys did last year.”
Which is win. The women look poised to improve from a fourth-place finish last year and hopefully claim their 10th Ivy title. Their 19 dual match wins have been in much in part to the new names on the roster. Freshmen like Ferdon, foil Nicole Vaiani and sabre Victoria Zhang have done well to adjust and maintain the Quakers’ status as contenders.
For the No. 6 men’s squad, its task is to defend the crown. Last year saw the men’s team secure its 17th Ivy League Men’s Fencing Championship, sharing the 2016 title with Columbia and Princeton. The men’s squad matches the women with 19 match wins, but claim only four losses on the season, compared to the women’s five. Similarly, freshmen like foil Willie Upbin and sabers Adam Green and Connor Mills have done well to keep the defending champions more than relevant.
The challengers to the hosts? That would come in the form of the lion and the tiger. No. 1 Columbia boasts not only the men’s and women’s Ivy titles from last year, but also the NCAA title for good measure. Princeton was also able to secure both team Ivy titles in the 2016 season. The Tigers’ women’s squad will be their strongest contenders, with an undefeated record through the month of January.
Nevertheless, Ma and his fencers seem more than ready for the task.
“We will particularly be looking at those teams, and looking at their individual videos,” the defending Ivy League Men’s Fencing Coach of the Year said. “We’ll be trying to set up some strategy, just like we did last year, focusing on the one-on-one bouts.”
While the setting and the opponents are oh-so-familiar, the Ivy League Fencing Round Robins brings a modification from the usual competition day for the Red and Blue. This weekend’s competition requires Penn to fence six teams in two days, as opposed to the usual one, bringing about its own challenges.
“It’s hard to have two good [fencing] days in a row, but it’s also very easy to have two bad days,” sophomore epee Justin Yoo said. “There are a lot more variables to take into account, meaning we have to stay focused, because the second day is just as important as the first day.”
For Ma, an extra day of competition does nothing to taper his expectations.
“Of course, mentally it will be different, only fencing three teams a day,” the eighth-year coach stated. “But every team is still strong, every bout, every touch will still be crucial. All collegiate matches are crucial, it depends on the day.”
For the Red and Blue, there have been a lot of good days, with both squads only . The key now is to have those good days in succession.
They’ve had more than enough dress rehearsals; now it’s showtime, literally and figuratively. But, if they perform to the level that they have shown in those rehearsals, their competitors better be very weary.
Who knows? The end of this screenplay may just read ‘Exeunt Penn fencing, men’s and women’s Ivy champions.’
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