For Penn men’s fencing, there may never be a better chance to win an Ivy League Round-Robin Championship than this weekend.
And since the team considers the Round-Robin its most important tournament of the season, there may never be a better time for Penn to have the kind of momentum it has right now.
The 19-1 Quakers have suffered only one loss, to No. 1 Penn State. Yet they returned the favor to the Nittany Lions, 16-11, last week. Penn also beat No. 5 St. John’s, 15-12, before placing second at the U.S. Collegiate Weapon Squad Championships.
“We can beat anybody,” junior epee Clifford Fishler said.
The challenge, as always, is that the Ivy League is arguably the best men’s fencing conference in the country. Princeton, Columbia, Harvard and Penn are all ranked in the top 10.
“There’s a lot of really good schools out there,” Fishler said. “We’re all fair matchups for other teams. It’s really who’s going to fence well on that day.”
Last year, the team entered Ivy League Round-Robins undefeated. While the Quakers were considered to be a favorite, the tournament turned out to be a disappointment. The squad lost to Harvard, Princeton and, most surprisingly, Brown.
“Last year, we were a young team that didn’t know how to seal the deal,” assistant coach Randy LeMaster said. “I think we’ve corrected that this year.”
Fishler acknowledged that he has faced his opponents before, and that winning the meet will be a matter of execution.
“It’s all people we’re very familiar with who we’ve been fencing the last four years of our lives,” Fishler explained.
But LeMaster emphasized that the team has prepared for each Ivy squad they will face.
“Depending on the team, we have different scenarios in mind,” LeMaster said.
An Ivy championship for Penn would mark the first for head coach Andy Ma, who has helmed the team for four seasons.
In fact, win or lose, Penn should have already went through Round-Robin by now, since the Ivies were originally scheduled for three weeks ago. But winter storm Nemo delayed the matchups, which will be held in Cambridge, Mass. Fishler said he is glad that the tournament was delayed since it gave the team more time to prepare.
“We were all swamped with midterms and stuff like that,” Fishler said. “It really gave us an opportunity to rest – not just physically, but [also] mentally.”
The team’s greatest strength arguably lies in its sabre squad, which includes captains Michael Mills and Evan Prochniak and placed first in Squad Championships last week. Mills, in particular, has had a stellar season, winning 93 percent of his bouts, significantly more than anyone else on the team.
But Fishler claimed that another strength lies in the fact that this year, unlike last season, the team has not won all of its matches going into the Ivy tournament.
“I think it’s good to realize that you lost,” Fishler said. “Everyone’s human, you know?”
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