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Sophomore epee Justin Yoo was one of several Penn fencing standouts at the North American Open, individually taking 12th in his event and carrying the Quakers' epee team to a ninth-place result.

Credit: Arabella Uhry , Arabella Uhry

New year, same great Penn fencing.

This past weekend, the Quakers' fencing teams recorded strong efforts at the North American Cup (NAC) in Columbus, Ohio to bring in the new year. The NAC is a non-collegiate event run by USA Fencing as opposed to the NCAA. In this tournament, the individual competitions consist of both pool play and an elimination bracket.

The Red and Blue put forth 14 fencers to compete in Ohio: four women and ten men. Freshman saber Victoria Zhang headlined a strong showing for the women with an undefeated record in pool play. A strong run to the quarterfinals, bolstered by a tight 15-14 win over tenth-seeded Sarah Merza, helped Zhang finish fifth in the 143-fencer event, only one place shy of the podium.

Zhang’s run was complemented by a trio of strong performances by her teammates. Senior Alejandra Trumble was Penn’s lone competitor in women’s epee, recording a 29th-place finish. The freshman foil duo of Danielle Ferdon and Nicole Vaiaini finished 16th and 29th, respectively, in their event.

The men’s contingent was also potent in The Buckeye State, led by another breakout freshman performance, this one coming from Willie Upbin in junior foil. Like Zhang, Upbin posted a perfect performance in pool play and used the momentum to carry him into the knockout rounds. Notable wins against Cameron Levy and Maxwell Yee led to a quarterfinal run and a seventh-place finish in the 206-person field.

But for the Penn men, the highlights did not stop there; sophomore Justin Yoo led with a 12th place finish in Division I Epee. Yoo teamed up with juniors and fellow epee competitors Jae Raynis and Zsombor Garzo to record a ninth-place finish in senior men’s team epee. For men’s sabre, it was sophomore Julian Merchant and Connor Mills who recorded strong 25th and 41st place finishes in the Division I Sabre event.

For Penn fencing as a whole, the break was anything but. The team convened over break for a training block after each member returned from his or her club’s respective training programs. As students prepare to hit the ground running when classes commence on Wednesday, so too will Quaker fencing. The Red and Blue will travel to State College, PA for the Penn State Invitational this weekend.

Based on last weekend’s results, a battle-proven Penn team looks seasoned. With the experience from the NAC in hand, the Quakers' weapons won’t be the only sharp thing they bring to University Park.

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