There's no place like home.
Starting Saturday morning and culminating Sunday evening was the Philadelphia Invitational, in which several of the NCAA’s best men’s and women’s fencing teams met at Penn’s Tse Center.
Both of Penn’s teams had a successful couple of days, each notching several victories over elite opponents.
The women’s team (19-6, 2-1 Ivy) won six bouts and lost two in the invitational, with its losses coming against No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 8 Northwestern.
The No. 9 Quakers will be able to gain a lot from these tough matchups, with the Ivy League Championships just a couple weeks away.
“Even though we did lose to Notre Dame, it was a huge learning experience,” said senior epee Stephanie Wolf, who went 2-1 in her duels against the number one ranked team in the country. “Having that practice fencing against top players will be good for us going into Ivy League Championships, so I’m excited.”
Aside from the two losses, the Quakers were dominant competing at home, scoring an average margin of victory of 19.5 points in their six wins over Haverford, Duke, Cornell, Sacred Heart, Wayne St., and Brown.
Of these wins, three stood out. The two victories against Cornell and Brown put Penn in the win column in the Ivy League, after the team dropped its first Ivy matchup versus Columbia last weekend. But perhaps the biggest win of this weekend was the Quakers’ vengeful victory against Duke, who also beat them last weekend at the Penn St. Invitational.
“We came into this week wanting to beat Duke and we did, which was great,” Wolf said. “Everyone really dug deep and pulled that one out.”
This weekend marked the first time Penn was able to compete on its own campus at the Tse Center this season. Not only did the women’s team perform well here, but the men’s team also looked awfully comfortable at home.
For the No. 7 men (20-5, 1-1 Ivy), the team lost just one duel all weekend. This lone loss to Notre Dame, also the top-ranked team in men’s fencing and the defending NCAA Champions, can actually be considered a positive. The duel was as close as it could get, with the Fighting Irish winning by a score of 14-13.
This isn’t the only chance the Quakers have to knock off Notre Dame, however, as they will also take on the Irish on their home turf next weekend.
“When we go to Notre Dame, that’ll be a little bit better of an indicator of how we’re looking skill-wise and mentality-wise going into the Ivies, since it’s so close,” senior foil and captain John Vaiani said.
Just like the women’s team, the men put on several impressive performances against solid squads, defeating two top 10 opponents in No. 8 St. John’s and No. 9 Duke. Also a part of this great showing for Penn were wins versus Haverford, Johns Hopkins, Drew, Sacred Heart, Wayne St., Brown, and NYU.
The Red and Blue needed this type of weekend to regain momentum following a subpar invitational last weekend, in which they went 2-3.
“I thought that we fenced a lot better than last weekend,” Vaiani said. “Last weekend, we were a little bit complacent and tired coming back from break. We sort of forgot who we are, and today and yesterday we improved that.”
As Wolf and Vaiani mentioned, both teams will now begin to shift their attention to the Ivy League Championships two weeks from now. The men’s team will look to win its third straight championship, as it has shared the last two titles with Columbia and Princeton. The women are seeking their first Ivy championship since 2004.
One thing is for certain: if the Red and Blue can continue to fence with the same energy and intensity as each of the two teams displayed today, both the men’s and women’s teams could very well be crowned champions of the Ivy League in two weeks’ time.