Wang returns as Cats travel to Penn State (Fencing)

Matt Forman

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After each tournament, coach Laurie Schiller awards top fencers with “Cats,” which are very similar to the helmet decal practice in football.

At practice Thursday night, Schiller awarded sophomore Meredith Baskies and freshman Sara Peck, a DAILY staffer, with “Cat of the Week” awards after finishing in the top 16 in foil and top 32 in epee competitions, respectively.

Last weekend’s impressive performance at the Junior North American Cup in Dallas featured five Northwestern fencers who reached the field of 32.

On Saturday the fencing team heads to State College, Pa., for the Penn State Open. And while the only team members who participated last weekend were 20 years old or younger, this weekend is a full-squad event.

The Penn State Open will feature individual, unattached fencers competing for their country rather than representing NU, but the tournament is still a good gauge of the teams’ progress, a message echoed by Schiller.

“The thing about this tournament is that we face some teams that we will see in the season,” he said. “We fence Penn, Penn State, Temple, Duke and North Carolina. It’s great to see how we match up with some other schools and we get to see some of the other teams’ new fencers.”

One of the downsides to participating in individual as opposed to team events is that there is a chance that teammates could end up fencing each other.

“This past tournament I had to fence Joanna (Niklinska) later in the tournament,” sophomore Christa French said. “It definitely makes it hard when you have to compete against your teammates in national tournaments when we practice with each other every day.”

Senior foilist Natalie Wang, who earned first team All-Midwest Conference and went 89-21 last season, will compete for the first time this season. Wang has been injured thus far, but will hope to compete throughout the entire tournament this weekend.

“I’ve been hurt heading into this season, so I’ve been taking it slower than usual,” she said. “I’ve been taking care of my body and trying to prepare mentally to make it through the weekend and just do my best.”

A week ago, the epee and foil squads performed well behind French and Baskies while the sabreists had a difficult weekend. Only one sabreist reached the field of 64, but Schiller said he knows his team will be fine.

“Half of the sabre team is down right now. he said. “Right now the team is down but the group will be fine because the other two squads have done well.”

The season has been a success thus far for the Cats, who look to continue the great start. But what determines whether the weekend is successful or not?

“For this weekend, I would really like to see a number of our gals make the finals,” Schiller said. “Not just top 16 but top eight. In foil, I would like to see at least two in the finals. In epee, I would like to see at least three make the finals because we have a very strong, capable epee team. In sabre, it would be nice to see one make the final, but we’ll see how it goes. At this point, we just need to build off of last weekend.”

Reach Matt Forman at matthewforman2007@u.northwestern.edu.

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