After starting its season with seven medals at the Temple Open, Penn fencing is looking to stay on the attack for the remainder of its upcoming 2023-24 campaign.
The Quakers have been on an upward trend, with their sixth-place team finish and 117 won bouts at the NCAA Championships last season being their highest placement since 2005. Penn fencing has historically been in the top 10 of the United States, but will be specifically eyeing championship glory this season as the team returns a strong foundation of Olympians, Junior National competitors, and Pan-American fencers.
“This year, we are at full strength for both men and women in all six weapons,” coach Andy Ma said. The 2023-2024 season marks Ma’s 15th year coaching the Quakers, and he has served as the backbone of the program according to many of his athletes.
Ma is confident that his training program and fencers are ready to take on their elite Ivy League opponents, and has high hopes for the upcoming championship season come March. The team aspires to win the Ivy title, along with increasing the number of fencers qualifying for the NCAA Championships from the already impressive 11 that went last season.
To do this, Ma is looking at the Red and Blue's freshman class to prove themselves and add to the team’s success in the upcoming season. This incoming class has impressive honors to their name, including North American Cup, Division One Championship, and Junior World Championship qualifiers.
Bolstered by the team’s success at the Temple Open, Ma feels optimistic about his team’s development and team culture as the season progresses. The Temple Open was marked by success, including breakout performances by several freshmen. Three gold medals were won in the men’s saber, women’s saber, and men’s foil events by freshman Gian Dhingra, freshman Leah Blum, and senior Bryce Louie, respectively. Penn’s success was well-rounded, with a silver medal victory in women’s foil by senior Sabrina Cho, and bronze medals won in women’s saber by junior Hailey Lu, men’s épée by sophomore Avery Townsend, and men’s foil by junior Eric Yu.
“We train hard, and we train smart,” Ma said. “We have a good team culture. We are very team-oriented; upperclassmen, freshmen, we all support each other.”
Ma’s philosophy this season is to emphasize time management, because he believes that the Quakers should excel both as students and as athletes. Last year, Penn ranked seventh in women's and 10th in men's for team GPA nationally according to the United States Fencing Coaches Association in 2023, while still having several fencers training to compete in the 2024 Olympics.
“We help encourage them to manage time correctly and smartly," Ma said. "So hopefully they have more time to focus on training, but you have to train very smart and scientific because if you sometimes train too hard, you will get injured. So the time management and your prevention I think that's the key for us. Every fencer has a strength, so I love every fencer in all six weapons.”
With the legacy of Penn fencing and the hopes of an Ivy League Championship on their shoulders, the Quakers look to take on their opponents at the Elite Invitational at Ohio State this November, along with at Penn State, and at home in the Philadelphia Invitational in January. Penn fencing faces their Ivy League rivals for the long-awaited championship Feb. 10-11 at Columbia.