Wildcats sweep through Philadelphia with 6-0 weekend (Fencing)

Matt Forman

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Northwestern’s fencing team rode the momentum of an early victory over the University of Pennsylvania 14-13 and swept the Temple Invitational in Philadelphia 6-0 Sunday.

Penn, along with the Wildcats, is among the top teams in the nation this season, according to coach Laurie Schiller. Just a season ago, the Quakers topped the Cats in a close bout, and Northwestern finished 5-1 in the 27th Annual Temple Invitational. This year, however, was a different story for Schiller and his squad.

“I’m very happy about going 6-0,” said coach Schiller. “I was worried about Penn and Temple, especially since we had to travel and Penn was our first match. It was close and hard fought, but we finally won 14-13. It’s even better because we lost to them last year.”

Northwestern defeated Temple, regarded as the second strongest team in the tournament, 18-9. The Cats then defeated Sacred Heart 15-12, Drew 21-6, Duke 19-8, and North Carolina 16-11.

Despite the fact that the sabre squad has been depleted due to injuries and players leaving the team, it turned in a performance that impressed coach Schiller.

“The sabre team really stepped up and made a difference against Penn and Temple especially,” he said. “Overall it was really a team effort. I only have good things to say.”

Northwestern competed in close matches throughout the tournament. Epée and sabre topped Penn 5-4 while foil fell 4-5, and each unit defeated Temple 6-3.

NU relied on key individual performances to pull out the narrow victories. Junior foilist Sam Nemecek posted a 14-0 record. Nemecek, a two-time second-team All-American, is hoping to register more than 100 wins for the third consecutive season.

Epée sophomores Joanna Niklinska and Kayley French went 9-2 and 11-1, respectively. French earned second-team All-Midwest Fencing Conference honors a season ago.

“Everybody has been practicing really hard and stepped it up for this meet,” said French, who placed second at the last team event, the Penn State Open. “I was impressed, but at the same time I was expecting us to do well. We’re all happy for each other.”

In order to prepare for the first weekend back after winter break, coach Schiller made sure his team was ready to go. The team had two-a-day practices Friday, Saturday and Sunday before classes started, and Schiller held morning weightlifting sessions on Tuesday and Thursday.

“We’ve had two practices in one day for the first time ever, actually,” said senior sabre quad captain Gina Annunziato of the grueling week. “But I think it’s worth it because we can really go all the way this season.”

The Cats will have a short week of practice following a delayed and then cancelled flight out of Philadelphia on Monday. The squad did not practice Monday afternoon and heads to Atlanta for the four-day United States Fencing Association North American Cup on Friday.

Northwestern has posted impressive results through the first half of the season, something Kayley French is happy about.

“It has been good so far,” she said. “This weekend is only a sign of good things to come.”

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