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Foilist Lauren Staudinger aims to avoid a case of the sophomore slump in her second year at Penn. (Michael Brownlie/DP File Photo)

After a season highlighted by the collegiate debut of a strong freshman class, the Penn women's fencing team again has plenty of new blood to work with in the 2001 season. The Quakers posted an 8-8 overall record last season, and went 2-3 in the Ivy League. They also sent two then-freshmen fencers, foilist Lauren Staudinger and epeeist Kim Linton, to the NCAA Tournament, proving that the Red and Blue have the ability to compete with the nation's top teams. Staudinger, Linton and Christina Verigan, the Red and Blue's lethal sophomore trio, are back this season and looking to use their collegiate experience to again turn in strong performances. Contributing to the Quakers' overall balance are All-American epeeist Kari Coley, who spent last season abroad, and team captain Mindy Nguyen. Nguyen switched from epee to sabre to provide added depth to the sabre unit. "One of our strengths is balance between weapons," Penn coach Dave Micahnik said. "The most depth is in epee in numbers and experience. In foil, we have numbers but not the same depth of experience." These numbers but lack of experience are largely due to a drastic team expansion. This season, newcomers make up about half of the Quakers team. Micahnik is looking for these new team members to improve quickly and step into varsity positions. "We improved over last year," Micahnik said. "[Of the seniors we graduated], we replaced all but one of them with strong fencers." He expects the team to do at least as well as last year, but "would happily take more." The Quakers face a host of tough competitors in the Ancient Eight, including Columbia, Yale and archrival Princeton. According to Staudinger, the Red and Blue would ideally like to be the Ivy League champions, but she recognizes that it is a longshot since the team is so young. Individuals also have their sights set on Regionals and the NCAA Tournament in March. Micahnik hopes to have four of his Quakers qualify for the NCAA Tournament this year. He would also like to see Linton and Staudinger have the chance to improve upon their respective 18th- and 22nd-place finishes there last season. In looking to improve their record this season and gain experience, the Quakers do not plan on overlooking any teams. "It's important to do well against all teams," Staudinger said. "Every single competition counts."

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