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Credit: Lizzy Machielse

After a deceptively short holiday break, Penn fencing prepares for its second tournament of the season: The Vassar Invitational.

This weekend's Vassar Invitational will be the Quakers' first competition since nearly three weeks ago when seven fencers traveled to Kansas City, Mo. for the Junior North American Cup.

Looking at this weekend’s bouts, both the men's and women’s teams are preparing for the tough competition that is headed their way. 

“Penn State is going to be our strongest competitor. We fenced them last year and lost to them a couple of times and a few we definitely could have won. I think it’s important we pay attention to the seemingly easier bouts,” sophomore Sara Papp said.

According to the NCAA Coaches' Poll for the 2017 season, the Penn State women are fourth in the country behind Notre Dame, Columbia, and Princeton with a record of 27-8. The Penn State men’s team is sixth behind Columbia, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn, and Princeton.

However, Penn fencing coach Andy Ma seems confident in his team’s ability to perform at the highest level despite the high level of competition and the Thanksgiving break period.

“We started with a pretty good couple weeks where both men and women went 4-1. The only team loss is Ohio State who got second place last year and is one of the best in the nation so we’ve had a pretty good start,” Ma said.

Coach Ma is taking the necessary steps to ensure his athletes are successful this weekend, keeping in mind the few days of break where the team was not practicing together in a structured environment.

Ma takes a tapering approach to the invitational, although it is only early in the season.

“People have taken five days off so its important this week to train not too hard and not too easy. We need to warm up and stretch so that no one gets injured,” Ma said.

Looking ahead, the squad knows who it will have to beat to continue its solid start to their season. The men will compete with Penn State and NYU, while the women will square off against Penn State and Temple this weekend. Still, this is the program's first time going to Vassar, so they don’t know exactly what to expect.

“This is our first time going to the Vassar Invitational. It is pretty big competition, not huge. We will fence five teams: NYU, Penn State, Temple, NJIT, Sacred Heart and Vassar,” Ma explained.

With the tournament's opening match rapidly approaching, Penn fencing will be hard at work this week in preparation of taking on some of the very best teams in the country.