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Penn fencing has already had a historic season.

After the men's team captured its 16th Ivy League championship on the heels of an undefeated season, the men and women combined to win the overall Intercollegiate Fencing Association championship last weekend for the first time in school history.

"This is the biggest achievement for a Penn team in the last 15 years," said Andrew Radu, a Penn alumnus and 2004 second team All-American fencer. "I don't know if [the talent] was that much better this year than other years. Something magical happened with these kids."

But the 2009 squad isn't done yet. It'll be looking to maintain that magic on the national stage tomorrow at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals in Madison, N.J.

The fencing program is the only one in school history with an NCAA team national championship to its name, and it boasts four of them. The men won the title in 1953, 1969 and 1981, while the women took it home in 1986.

Hall of Fame coach Dave Micahnik — who has amassed an astounding career record of 722-300 in 35 years as the men's and women's coach — has presided over the last two national champions. He has high hopes for this year's bunch.

"I expect to be in the top 10 and I expect to probably do a little better than that, but it all starts [tomorrow]," he said.

That expectation refers to the final team rankings after the March 19-22 national tournament. While each fencer's individual results culminate in that ultimate team standing - which Micahnik called "the only ranking that really makes any difference" -- the NCAAs are really a chance to spotlight individuals. No team results are considered until the conclusion of nationals, and according to Micahnik, his fencers will thrive in that kind of setting.

"So many of these people have been competing in individual tournaments in the U.S. Fencing Association for a number of years, so they're really comfortable in individual tournaments," he said.

Senior epee Sam Monk will be looking to avenge a disappointing loss at last year's regionals. At No. 13, Monk is ranked much lower than he was last year, yet feels relieved to enter the tournament without the burden of a top seed.

"To me, this is a lot less pressure," he said. "I'm just going to go out there and do whatever I can and that's it. No butterflies."

While Monk is feeling loose as his fourth and final regional tournament approaches, he dreads the inevitable end.

"No matter what, it's going to be bittersweet because it's gonna be the end of the road for some people," he said.

Even if all 18 participating Quakers qualify for nationals, the team can only take 12 (two per event) to the last hurrah. Regardless, Monk will have had an unforgettable final year.

"It's been a phenomenal season," he said. "I really couldn't have asked for anything better."

Well, sort of.

"Walking away with a National Championship would always be nice to go out with, I suppose," Monk added.

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