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After a deep run to the national final in epee last season, Senior epee Justin Yoo earned a fifth-place finish two weeks ago at the Penn State Open. 

Credit: Arabella Uhry

The first-meet nerves are out of the way, and now it’s time for business.

Penn men’s and women’s fencing will head to The Ohio State University Saturday for the Elite Invitational, their second tournament of the season. The Quakers will face the Buckeyes, Penn State, the University of Notre Dame, University of North Carolina, and Northwestern University (women only).

Coming off an eighth place finish at the NCAA championships last year, the tournament provides an opportunity for both Penn programs to use the momentum from the previous season to set the tone for the rest of the year. The Quakers performed well at the Penn State Open two weeks ago, but looking ahead to this weekend’s bouts, both the men's and women’s squads are preparing for even tougher competition coming their way.

According to the NCAA Coaches' Poll for the 2018 men’s season, Ohio State ranked first, Notre Dame third, and Penn fourth. Penn State is ranked ninth, while North Carolina received ten votes in the poll. For the men’s squad, which won its third straight share of the Ivy League title last season, this meet will be critical heading into the rest of the season. Senior captain Justin Yoo is confident in the team’s ability to rise to the occasion.

“The format for Penn State was a lot different than what we’re going to fence since it was an individual tournament, but also it didn’t really matter so much,” Yoo said. "I will say that when our team competes at competitions that do matter, we perform extremely well. I think Penn State was a good warm-up, but we’re just getting started.”

On the women’s side, Penn ranks below all of its competitors for this weekend except for Northwestern and North Carolina. However, the squad welcomed a strong incoming class, with freshman Lark Izenson placing third in sabre at the Penn State Open.

“We’re fencing some really strong teams this weekend. … There are a lot of freshmen this year, and none of us have fenced in a tournament with this format, which will be an adjustment,” Izenson said.

In addition to helping the freshmen find their footing, the team will also have to fill the gaps of many strong competitors who graduated last spring.

“Since we lost a lot of seniors, the biggest challenge will be communication throughout the team, especially with the freshmen. We had a good system with the class above me since I was here, but there’s now a big gap with them gone,” Yoo said. “I think that once we figure out how to communicate with each other at meets, it’ll be smooth sailing. Essentially it’s a matter of experience, which the classes below me will gain from [Ohio State].”

If nationals or Penn State are any indication, the squads are clearly up for the challenge.