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Senior Maddie Villalba is looking to return to NCAA Nationals for Penn cross country.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Multiple Penn Athletics teams will be in action this weekend as some fall seasons come to a close and some winter sports see their first action of the year. Ahead of a jam-packed weekend, here’s what to watch for from Penn cross country, men’s soccer and men's and women's fencing.

Penn cross country

The men and women of Penn cross country begin their NCAA postseason this Friday, as the teams will travel to Lehigh's campus in Bethlehem, Pa. for the Mid-Atlantic Regional.

After a successful Ivy Heps where the men took the title and the women finished in third, both teams are expected to continue in strong form during Regionals. According to the most recent USTFCCCA rankings, the men are currently fourth in the Mid-Atlantic Region, one spot above rival Princeton, and the women are fifth.

With Regionals also comes a longer course for the men, who will now race 10 kilometers instead of eight, and the women will still race six kilometers. To qualify for Nationals, taking place next week in Terre Haute, Ind., the Quakers will have to finish in the top two of their region or be selected as one of 13 at-large teams. Individual runners can also qualify if they are in the top four who are not on a qualifying team.

Three Penn athletes qualified for Nationals last season, including current senior captain Maddie Villalba and junior Anthony Russo, but the Red and Blue will hope more can join them this time around.

Penn men’s soccer

Penn men’s soccer (6-5-4, 2-1-3 Ivy) will also hit the road this weekend to take the pitch in its final match of the season against Harvard. The Quakers should be heavily favored to end the year on a high note as the Crimson have lost all six of their other Ivy matches this season.

Five seniors will be making their final appearances for the Red and Blue: midfielders Brandon Bartel, Karim Hussamy, and Dami Omitaomu, and defenders Casey Barone and Promise Adebayo-Ige. Barone and Bartel will be particularly missed next season, as they have started every game for Penn this season.

The graduation of the team’s seniors will open even larger roles for defender Kai Lammers and midfielder Jack Rosener to fill next season. The pair of freshmen have started a combined 22 games for Penn this season, and have already provided clear glimpses of what they may be capable of accomplishing during their remaining years in University City.

Credit: Lizzy Machielse

Senior sabre Sara Papp

Penn fencing

Both Penn women’s and men’s fencing will compete at home on Saturday in the Elite Invitational, which brings competition from across the country to square off in Penn’s Tse Center. Among the competitors this year are North Carolina, Ohio State, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Notre Dame.

The women’s most successful foil last season was Nicole Vaiani, who went 42-23 as a junior, and is now a senior captain. She not only has been one of Penn’s best fencers, but also one of the country’s best after she finished 14th in last year’s NCAA Championships. The best returning sabre for the Quakers is senior Sara Papp, who went 39-21 last year on her way to a 15th place finish at the NCAA Championships. The team’s top returning epee is sophomore Vanessa Dib, who went 42-25 last year en route to being named second-team All-Ivy.

At foil for the men, junior Michael Li is the most successful fencer returning from last season, as he finished the year 31-28. He gave a strong showing at last year’s Elite Invitational, defeating three of his four opponents. At sabre, the men’s most accomplished returnee is senior Connor Mills. Mills went 38-21 last season, and dating back to his freshman season, he holds an impressive career win percentage of .608. Sophomore Emon Daroian, who had a 45-21 record last year, stands out at epee.

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