The Penn men's and women's fencing teams have gone through their fair share of changes this year, but the fencers are optimistic about the team’s future. A number of freshmen have joined the Red and Blue, and the transition to college fencing has proven to be a major challenge.
Sabre Raymond Zhao is a starter for the men and has done a lot to improve his skills in a college-level environment.
“The main difference is you’re fighting for a school, [not] yourself, so the intensity is incredible," Zhao said.
Competing for the Quakers is what gives him extra motivation to work harder, and he’s quickly learned what it takes to become better.
“You have to focus on these short burst of strategies, focusing on clutch situations, and working under pressure, which [are all] important aspects of college fencing," he said.
Sabre Enzo Bergamo and epee Madeline Adams-Kim both see major differences between fencing competitions in high school and in college.
“The system points are different, and in college, it’s about adapting to the new format," Bergamo said. “The matches are quicker than what you’re used to in regular fencing.”
“High school was more individual and trying to get a higher ranking for yourself, but now, each time you win, you get a point for the team,” Adams-Kim agreed. “It’s team-oriented, which I like a lot."
Being a small fish in a big pond, Zhao, Bergamo, and Adams-Kim are three of the many freshmen new to Penn fencing. However, the bond between the incoming teammates has grown exponentially.
“Our team has made great efforts this year, especially acclimating the freshmen with group events," Zhao said. “The group cohesion is really good."
Bergamo has found a community in the team, as the fencers share common goals and all experience growth both as athletes and people.
“It is a big family, and everyone received the freshman very well and is always striving to improve and [be] on the same page.” he said.
In terms of personal goals, Zhao has high expectations for himself. He hopes to qualify for the NCAA Championships and is very hopeful about the rebuilding process of the team. Adams-Kim also has lofty goals, looking forward to making it to NCAA Regionals and possibly, Nationals.
With a fresh face of athletes, the fencing team continues to strive towards improvement. No matter the end result, the rookies of Penn fencing will play a crucial role in the team's success.