Another sport, another three-way tie at the top.
After winning its third of a title last season, just weeks after the football team did the same, Penn men’s fencing is looking forward to what should be another successful year.
The team returns three of its top four athletes in each of the three weapons, the reigning Ivy League Coach of the Year and two All-Americans. That said, the Red and Blue are losing an individual Ivy champion in Shaul Gordon, and they’ll have to go through repeat NCAA champions Columbia to defend their title.
“[Gordon] is one of those superstars … [but] we got two men’s sabre freshmen coming in, they don’t have experience like he does, but they have potential and they train very hard,” coach Andy Ma said. “Hopefully if we cannot replace him this year, then next year [when the freshmen develop].”
One of those returning All-Americans looking to step into Gordon’s superstar role is junior Zsombor Garzo, who finished 11th in the nation in the epee classification last year.
Both Garzo and Ma mentioned the Quakers' team spirit as a reason for their success.
“I think the team spirit [was a huge factor]. We had a strong freshman class last year, [and they] worked well with the seniors and juniors. We had a good team chemistry,” Ma said.
“It’s really a team effort. We have a really strong squad right now," Garzo echoed. "And we’ve built a crew around us, including our lifting coach, all our different coaches, that help us prepare really well.”
Garzo is joined by fellow All-American Justin Yoo, who tied with Garzo for second place in epee at Ivies. Along with junior Jake Raynis, the three form the core of what should be a very dominant epee class for the Quakers.
They are joined by a sabre squad that went undefeated in the first test of the season last week, led by senior captain Isaac Buchwald. The aforementioned freshmen Adam Green and Connor Mills are solid additions to a classification that has lost its top “superstar.”
The top three Penn foil fencers also return including last year’s third place finisher in Ivy play, junior John Vaiani. In all, that means nine out of the 11 fencers with more than 25 wins last year return for the Quakers.
However, the return of last year’s core doesn’t guarantee any success for the Quakers.
“I think in order to win outright [this year], we need to stay focused … that’s the key,” Garzo said.
Last year the team seemingly lost its focus after beating Columbia and falling in its next match to Princeton. The same happened the year before when the Quakers fell to the Tigers after a huge win against Harvard.
“We have to keep all three weapons strong. We have to focus and concentrate every single time. There are no easy wins [in the Ivy League],” Ma said. “We hope we win the Ivy again and have ten or eleven qualify for NCAAs so that we can move up [in the national standings].”
Ma’s goals don’t seem so far-fetched given last year’s success and the relative lack of turnover on the roster. But the Quakers still have everything to prove.
As long as they stay sharp, a second consecutive Ivy title, this time outright, is not out of reach.