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Senior epee Stephanie Wolf finished in ninth at the North American Cup over winter break.

Credit: Carson Kahoe

Penn fencing had an up and down weekend against some of the top fencing programs in the country.  

The Quakers (11-4 for both men and women) had a busy weekend in State College, Pa. The men and women defeated North Carolina and Haverford but fell short to Columbia, Penn State, and Duke.

The men's matchup against Columbia was undoubtedly the highlight of the night, as it included two of last year's three Ivy League co-champions. The Quakers lost 13-14 in a very tight contest. Despite the loss, coach Andy Ma remains optimistic about defeating Columbia in the future, which will need to be done in order to capture the third straight Ivy League championship for the men. 

“We were very close with Columbia," Ma said. "The real match will be four weeks later at the Ivy League Championships."

However while losses to perennial power Columbia might have been expected for both the men and women, the Quakers falling to Penn State and Duke were more frustrating.

This weekend was Penn’s first struggle of the season, after both the men and women’s teams started so strongly this season. Both the men and women held 9-1 records, and had seven-match winning streaks, entering the Penn State Invitational.

Additionally, Penn also had an excellent performance at January’s North American Cup before winter break, led by freshman Sean Wilson for the men and senior Stephanie Wolf for the women. 

“This is our first intercollegiate meet after the long break. So, this is a kind of a warmup," Ma said. "We still have two more matches (before Ivy League Championships). This was to see what we need to work on for the next four weeks. We know we are not fully in shape because of the long break."

The Quakers will now develop a plan to learn from this weekend and improve moving forward. Next weekend, Penn is competing in the Philadelphia Invitational, against another strong field that includes St. John's, Yale, NYU, and Duke, among others.

“Tomorrow will be our day off, and we will have a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, a three-day training,” the back-to-back Ivy League men’s fencing coach of the year said.

Despite this weekend's results, one positive for Penn is that both the men and women have been getting tremendous contributions from freshmen this season, with Wilson and Michael Li particularly standing out on the men's side.

“The freshmen always help the team because they are energized and very motivated because this is their first time,” Ma said. 

If the fencing teams are to continue their success from the past few years, they will need those freshmen to perform like veterans.