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The Penn men's fencing team can almost taste it. Three straight top-10 finishes at nationals and three consecutive agonizingly close 14-13 dual meet losses to defending national champion Penn State put the Quakers in an interesting position. They are among the elite, but not yet leaders of the pack. Penn's success confirms the value of coach Dave Micahnik's ability to develop talent and instill the value of hard work in his fencers. Penn knows the one thing it needs to do this year in order to further ascend collegiate fencing's hierarchy. "We plan to work harder," Penn senior David Cohen said. The taste of a successful 1998-99 campaign capped off by the team's first Ivy League title in 15 years and a victory over Princeton was extremely sweet. But after a second-place Ancient Eight finish and disappointing defeat to archrival Princeton last year, the success of two years ago has created a thirst in this year's squad quenchable only by another Ivy crown. "Beating Princeton is our goal for the year," captain Charles Hamann said. "A lot of us were on the 1999 championship team and know what it takes to win. We are hungry. We have tasted victory, but lost it last year. [We] want to take it back. Seniors want to graduate on a winning note." Seniors make up the core of a team boasting a talented freshman class. Newcomers, including those returning from injuries like foilist Yaron Roth, give Penn depth comparable to the nation's best teams. The foil squad wields the team's most potent weapon. Comprised of Roth, Cohen, his talented brother Yale, a possible world junior team participant this year, standout freshmen including international foilers Derrick Menaldino and Jeffrey Breen, and a slew of other fencers with experience in international competition, the foil team may prove key to the overall success of the team. "Foil is strongest weapon on our team. They match up well. Foil is an asset and strength to our team and crucial to our wins." Hamann said. The epee team is also stacked. Hamann, junior Jim Benson, sophomore Javiar Garcia-Albea, freshman Charles Eriksen and junior Scott Eriksen form a solid nucleus. Saber standouts include senior Mike Golia and junior Jeff Lee. The two will be joined by a third member yet to be determined. The talented freshman class should prove valuable pushing upperclassmen in practice while seasoning themselves for the future. "[Being on this team] is gonna help me improve my fencing a lot and its gonna be a lot of fun," Menaldino said. Different from previous years, the entire squad will be engaging in a weekly group practice. "We enacted a group practice one day a week. It's a change from the weapon-oriented schedule. It's a chance to work on footwork and technique and be together," Hamann explained. With desire this strong and the work ethic to boot, the thirst for a title will fuel this team's drive. Only one sweet and satisfying remedy will quench the collective thirst of this team -- an Ivy League championship.

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