Finishing at the top of the Ivy League as a freshman tends to surprise people.
Chloe Daniel even surprised herself.
The freshman fencer walked away from the Ivy League Tournament last weekend with the individual women’s epee title, defeating 12 opponents over the weekend and earning her a first team All-Ivy designation.
“I definitely surprised myself. I went into Ivies thinking I was just going to fence and see what happens. I focused on fencing for the women’s team. It didn’t even come to mind until after the first day when I saw that I was first on the results,” Daniel said.
Clocking the best record among all of the women’s epee fencers in the Ivy League is no small feat, especially considering the level of competition across the board. Princeton’s program is ranked No. 1 in the country, and Columbia is not far behind at No. 2. It was Daniel’s contributions on epee, alongside fellow All-Ivy named teammate freshman Jessica Liang, that helped the Red and Blue topple the Tigers. Similarly, the Quakers were just one point shy of beating the Lions.
The contributions of the epee team, led by Daniel and Liang, were fundamental in securing the overall team finish, tying with Princeton for second place, just behind Columbia.
“Columbia, Princeton, and Harvard have a ton of women’s epee fencers who have been on the women’s junior and national teams,” coach Andy Ma said. “If you’re smart, change quickly, and try to know your opponent well so that you play to your strengths and avoid your weaknesses, you can defeat junior and senior members. If you’re not careful you can lose to people behind you.”
Daniel, a Sierra Madre, Calif. native, has been fencing since she was nine years old. Her home club, Fortune Fencing, has sent numerous athletes to compete at top Division I fencing programs across the country. It was there where she was mentored under her longtime coach, Elsayed Emara. An Egyptian fencing national team athlete himself, Emara coached Daniel for the majority of her youth career, through extensive international competitions.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I’ve seen a lot. We see some kids that show they have incredible potential in the sport of fencing the first day. Chloe was one of those. When I started working with her, you could tell she was quiet, but she listened and applied everything that coaches told her,” Emara said.
Over her time at Fortune, Chloe’s talents as a junior fencer brought her countless opportunities to compete nationally and internationally.
“I have seen a lot of the U.S — really random places. Through international tournaments I’ve also seen random European countries as well. It’s been really cool to travel and see other parts of the world that I wouldn’t otherwise see or think about. That’s something I really appreciate from fencing,” Daniel said.
The freshman has had no shortage of competitions around the world. At the top of her list of accomplishments as a junior fencer was her Junior National Cadet team qualification, a feat accredited to only the top-3 ranked juniors in the country. To reach such a ranking, Daniel had to place well at a variety of international competitions.
In 2016, Daniel competed at the USA Fencing Junior Olympics and recorded an impressive seventh-place finish. She’s traveled to compete across Europe from Finland to Bulgaria, where the Cadet World Fencing Championships were held in April of 2017.
After achieving great successes on the international circuit, the freshman has clearly adapted well to the collegiate fencing circuit. While junior programs typically focus on individual performance, shifting to a team setting places greater responsibility on individual performances for squad outcomes.
“Fencing collegiately is more fun because it turns it into a team sport. You’re fencing for your team instead of fencing for yourself. When you win, the team wins,” Daniel said.
Daniel has done a lot of just that.
The freshman has a 51-17 record on the season for a winning percentage of .750—the highest of the epee squad. With the end of her debut season in sight, she’s looking to continue improving.
“I want to develop some of my actions more so I have more options, so I’m relying less on the same thing when I fence. It also makes it more interesting. It gets kind of boring when there’s only a few actions that have been working that day but you want to do more,” Daniel said.
Women’s fencing still has the Temple Invitational ahead of them this weekend, where they will face off with high caliber teams including No. 5 Temple and No. 6 Penn State. It will also offer a rematch with Princeton. At their current eighth-place ranking, the Red and Blue will look to perform as a team in their last official tournament before NCAA Regionals in early March.
Going forward, the Ivy Tournament finish has also inspired great confidence for the potential of the program in future years. The Ivy League is incredibly competitive, and the Red and Blue were extremely close to coming away with a win.
“We lost to Columbia and Yale and for both of those it came down to a 5-4 bout to determine who would win. Deep down, we knew we won based off of calls that were made. We know that next year we can do better, and learn from what happened and try to get first,” Daniel said.
With the potential to end the season on a very high note, Daniel has an entire club rooting for her back home.
“I knew she would do really well at Ivies, but to be honest with you, she surprised me when she won last week. The competition was very high and very strong… We were jumping at the club, like, ‘Wow Chloe did it.’ It was a really happy moment for us,” Emara said.
If there are more surprises like that in store for Daniel and the rest of Penn women’s fencing, the Red and Blue are sure to round out the season on a high note.
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