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Penn fences Borwn in the second round of the round robin. Dominika Franciszkowicz Credit: Andrew Gardner

Despite being riddled by numerous setbacks throughout the 2010 campaign, the Penn fencing team nearly reproduced last year’s seventh-place finish at the NCAA Championships on the season’s final weekend.

Over the last four days, first-year coach Andy Ma’s teams — represented by four men and four women — combined for 81 victories on their way to an eighth-place finish overall.

The host Harvard squad was the highest scoring Ivy team, finishing with 137 victories en route to a fifth-place finish. Princeton came in at sixth, and Columbia followed in seventh.

On Thursday and Friday, Danielle Kamis, Stephanie Wheeler, Dominika Franciszkowicz and Aida Abdikulova took to the strips in the women’s competition.

Of the four, only Franciszkowicz was able to garner All-American honors after finishing 12th in sabre with 11 victories. Kamis notched six wins, finishing in 20th.

Abdikulova earned seven wins in foil and Wheeler obtained eight in epee, finishing in 22nd and 17th, respectively.

In spite of her low finish, a disappointed Wheeler saw the silver lining in the weekend.

“Personally, I wasn’t extremely happy with my performance this year,” she said. “But you know, it’s still an honor to be there.”

Wheeler was also quick to mention the impressive showing on Saturday and Sunday on the men’s side.

Despite losing All-Ivy sabres Jonathan Berkowsky and Andrew Bielen to injury over the course of the season, the Quakers were still able to produce three All-American performances.

Sophomore Vidur Kapur, the only male fencer with a previous trip to the NCAA Championships under his belt, achieved honorable mention All-American status after a ninth-place finish in foil.

But Kapur was outdone by fellow classmate Alex Simmons, who finished in seventh on his way to earning a place as a second-team All-American. With his finish, 2010 marks the eighth straight year that Penn’s men fencing program has produced a first or second-team All-American.

Freshman Evan Prochniak was also named an honorable mention All-American, doing his best to fill the void left by the injured Berkowsky and Bielen.

Jacob Wischnia also represented the Quakers, finishing 17th with nine victories in epee.

If there was any doubt about how the men would perform without senior leadership or past experience, Simmons said this team had been battle-tested all along.

“We’ve all been through tough tournaments, so I think that’s what helped us pull through so well,” he said.

Whether they were disappointed or elated following their performances, there is a clear consensus among all the fencers going into next season.

“We’ve had success in the past, and we have the potential to do definitely better than we did this year,” Wheeler said. “We also had a couple freshmen that we were hoping would qualify that didn’t, so we definitely have things to look forward to next year.”

Simmons echoed his teammate’s optimism.

“We’re all going to keep improving as the coaches get to know us better,” he said. “I expect us to do even better next year.”

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