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This Sunday at Penn State, Penn's best fencers will ry to earn bids to the NCAA championships. Last weekend, the Penn men's fencing team got revenge on Princeton when it took second place -- one spot ahead of the Tigers -- at the IFAs at Yale. This Sunday at the NCAA Regionals at Penn State, strong performances will win the Quakers something equally, if not more, important -- bids to the NCAA championships. Twelve of the Quakers will head to State College where they will compete against a selective group of fencers from the Mid-Atlantic region, which includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey and states to the south. "It's a business trip, not a celebration," Penn coach Dave Micahnik said. "We're going there to try and qualify as many fencers as we can to NCAAs." Regionals are invitation-only -- to qualify, a fencer must have fenced in half of his team's meets and won half of his bouts. Qualification for NCAAs is based upon season evaluation -- which considers a fencer's personal record, the number of bouts won against high-ranked opponents and the strength of the team schedule -- in addition to the fencer's final placement at regionals. Though regional placement is important in determining NCAA qualification, sophomore epeeist Jim Benson noted that a lackluster performance on Sunday will not necessarily disqualify a fencer. "If you had a really good season and you did badly at regionals, you could still go to nationals," he said. On Sunday, fencers will be seeded into pools. Competitors will be eliminated in each round, and the tournament will end with a 12-person round robin. Penn sophomore sabre Jeff Lee noted that fencers will be under less pressure in the regional competition -- and individual tournament -- because their results will not directly affect the team. But strong performances at NCAAs boost a team's rankings. Lee and junior foilist David Cohen are optimistic about the Quakers' chances for qualifying for NCAAs. Last year, five Penn fencers made the cut -- including epeeists Charles Hamann and Scott Eriksen and sabre Mike Golia, who hope to repeat their NCAA-qualifying performances at regionals. But Lee is aware that the competition at regionals will be fierce. "There are less people, but better competition," he said. Penn Athletics Compliance Coordinator D. Elton Cochran-Fikes noted that in its region, Penn has one of the highest numbers of participants. "That speaks volumes of the competitiveness of the Penn fencing team," he said. Penn is coming off an impressive 10-4 season and has been training all week for regionals. "Some of the people will do very well," Micahnik said. "But we can't all do very well. We're in an extremely strong region." For senior captain David Liu, regionals may be his last collegiate competition. "It's my last shot at NCAAs," he said. "I will be disappointed if I don't make it. But the team and I have had one of the best seasons since I've been a Penn fencer." And even though the tournament cuts into the the first weekend of spring break, Lee said the Quakers are looking forward to the trip. "Team trips are always a blast," he said. "We always have fun."

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