Penn men’s and women’s fencing are looking to parry, counter-attack, and riposte their way to victory at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional championships in Easton, Pa.
The No. 7 Penn men (28-11, 5-2 Ivy) started hot two weeks ago by going 4-1 at the Ivy League Championships, garnering their third Ivy title in a row. However, this past weekend, they struggled at the Temple Invite, finishing 2-2 with ailments to top fencers playing a factor.
According to coach Andy Ma, sophomore epee Justin Yoo, who finished second in the nation last year, has been sick with the flu but will return this weekend. Sabre Julian Merchant was out with a hamstring injury, but like Yoo, should be healthy for regionals.
The No. 8 Penn women (29-11, 5-4) find themselves in an entirely different situation from the men. The women went 3-3 and came up fourth at the Ivy League Championships, a result seen in three out of the last four years. However, senior epee Stephanie Wolf had a high fever going in to the weekend, which potentially affected the championship outcome.
Fast-forwarding to this past weekend, the women were nothing but exceptional. They claimed an undefeated 4-0 record at the Temple Invitational, creating momentum they hope to utilize during the regional championships.
For the upcoming regionals, the format is based off the New England Intercollegiate format, meaning it will be an all-individual competition. Players fence for themselves and accumulate points. Penn will utilize 24 fencers total, 12 women and 12 men.
Every team will fence each other in the round-robin style first round. After each successive round, 25 percent of the fencers will be eliminated, until 12 remain in each weapon class. The top six or seven fencers, depending on the weapon, will advance to the NCAA championships.
However, the number of touches per bout is a key factor affecting the Quakers' strategy for the regional championships.
According to Ma, the five-touch bouts at regionals increase the chance of upsets. Even a top fencer can have a bad day, start slow, and find themselves eliminated. That gives everyone a chance to win.
When it’s all said and done and the last weapon is sheathed, both the men’s and women’s squads aren’t looking for complacency at regionals. The goal for every fencer is to qualify for NCAA championships and eventually become the first Penn fencer to win an NCAA championship since Michael Mills in 2013.
With plenty first and second team All-Ivy award recipients on both sides, Penn has the talent to compete against anybody. This reality, combined with a coach who just can’t seem to stop winning Ivy League Coach of the Year, provides the Quakers with the tools to create their own destiny.