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Even though the competition will be stiff at this weekend's Northwestern Invitational, junior foil John Vaiani and the rest of Penn fencing have their sights set on next weekend's Ivy Championship.

Credit: Zach Sheldon , Zach Sheldon

Eyes on the prize.

With the all-important Ivy League Championship just a week away, Penn fencing travels to Notre Dame this weekend to compete in the Northwestern Duals. The two-day event will feature tough opponents on both the men’s and women’s sides, as several ranked teams will be among the list of entrants.

Even with the strong competition this weekend, the Quakers will have their sights set on the Ivy Championship, using their bouts this weekend to gauge where they are at and ensure that they are ready for the biggest competition of the year.

“Next week is definitely way more important, so we’re all super focused on that,” junior foil John Vaiani said. “But it’ll good to get out there and fence Notre Dame and Ohio State, two of our biggest competitors. It’ll be a good test to see where we’re at with the other teams.”

This weekend’s event represents a slight change of pace for the Red and Blue, but one that comes at an opportune time. Up until now, many of the team’s prior events and invitationals have been one-day affairs, but the Ivy Championships is a two-day event. That means the Quakers will have to diligent and attentive during and in between their bouts for twice as long, something that they might not be used to.

Fortunately for them, this weekend provides the opportunity to practice.

“I think we just need to stay focused, and we just need to remember that,” Vaiani said. “Ivies are going to be a two-day event so we’re going to have to stay focused over two days, so this will be a good way just to try and keep our focus on each team and go into each team really respecting everybody.”

Both men’s and women’s squads have been performing well as of late, as they are both coming off 6-0 records at the Philadelphia Invitational two weekends ago. In the lastest coaches’ poll, both teams ranked sixth in the nation.

On the men’s side, the foils, led by Vaiani and freshman Willie Upbin, have been the standout squad in recent weeks, although both epee and saber teams have performed strongly as well. Sophomore epee Justin Yoo has been one of the team’s most consistent performers, and has continued his incredible campaign with a combined record of 21-7 over the past two events.

For the women, the same story applies, with the foils, most notably freshman Nicole Vaiani and senior Cassidy Seidl, leading the pack, with the other teams finding success. However, the most impressive fencer for the women has been senior epee Alejandra Trumble, who has been on an absolute tear lately. In the past two events, the Cambridge, Mass. native has gone a combined 22-3, including 16 consecutive wins at the Philadelphia Invitational.

Trumble sees a variety of reasons for the team’s recent triumphs, but highlights one cause in particular: team camaraderie.

“It’s an individual sport, and it’s even more so before college, so you have to come in to the team setting, which can be a challenge for freshmen,” she said. “But our freshmen this year have been working really well with that, as have our upperclassmen, so I think there’s been a lot more of a team vibe this year, and I think it’s showing in our results, which is really great.”

If they can keep those good feelings going, and keep the momentum going, then the Red and Blue will have a real shot at winning the Ivy title on both sides.