Seniors Prepare For Final NU Duals (Fencing)

Pritish Behuria

By Pritish BehuriaThe Daily Northwestern

For senior Jessica Florendo, freshman year at Northwestern wasn’t the only thing that came as a culture shock.

A first season with Northwestern’s fencing team was too.

“Fencing is typically an individual sport,” Florendo said. “So it was really humbling to try and push everyone in the same direction, while continuing to concentrate on your own game.”

The Wildcats senior class this year boasts six fencers and heading into this weekend’s NU duals – the final dual meet of the year before the Midwest Regional Championships – they’ll be looking to that experience to carry them through some difficult competition.

From established high school fencers like Mai Vu and Florendo to team captain Sophie Eustis, who had just a year of sabre experience before arriving in Evanston, the class had varied fencing backgrounds.

“When we finish four years with Christa and Kayley French, we’re not gonna see a huge improvement because they’re already at such a high level,” coach Laurie Schiller said. “But someone like Sophie who had very little experience in high school has improved greatly over the years.”

Senior epee fencers Courtney Dubois, Sarah Gravlee and Sara Pecherek looked set to be part of the starting line-up at the beginning of the year.

But with freshmen sisters Christa and Kayley French and the impressive form of freshman Joanna Niklinska, the seniors have been relegated to a bench role this season.

“They had to move down and responded really well to it,” Schiller said. “They’ve helped their younger teammates come through and they know it’s a team sport and handled it really well.”

Vu and Florendo have qualified for the NCAA Championships every year they have competed at the collegiate level.

Florendo said some of her classmates see this year as a great way to end their fencing careers, while this year is a bridge year for others like her.

“I know this is another stepping stone to my fencing career later on,” Florendo said. “But this is still an important season for us and we’ll do our best for our alma mater.”

Losing six fencers would be a blow to any team. But the Cats’ future looks bright with sophomore foilist Sam Nemecek and the French twins ready to pick up where the seniors left off.

“This was certainly a strong group and we’ll always miss the group,” Schiller said. “But every year, the chemistry of the team changes and since we’ve had scholarships, we’ve been getting stronger and stronger freshmen.”

The Cats goal this season is to win the Midwest Regional Championships for the first time since 2001.

No fencers on the current roster were part of that championship team.

“We hope to be Midwest champions,” Florendo said. “Getting that ring is really a symbol of effort and obviously sending six people to the NCAAs would also be a great achievement.”

Reach Pritish Behuria at [email protected]