Fencing: Foilists hope to avenge ND loss at Junior Olympics

Jonah Rosenblum

Camille Provencal and Devynn Patterson have a chip on their shoulder entering the USFA National Junior Olympics this weekend.

After breezing through seven bouts against unranked opponents last weekend in South Bend, Ind., the sophomore foilists struggled when it mattered most-in the Cats’ 19-8 loss to No. 2 Notre Dame.

Provencal got off to a slow start against the Fighting Irish and had a hard time pulling herself out of it. Patterson had difficulties of her own, missing several opportunities and struggling with confidence issues, associate head coach Ed Kaihatsu said.

Now Provencal and Patterson will make a pitstop in Memphis, Tenn., hoping to regain their swagger.

“This is a huge opportunity for them to get back in their groove,” Kaihatsu said.

Provencal, Patterson and fellow sophomore Ariel Stein fared well at last year’s Junior Olympics, finishing 20th, 24th and 32nd respectively in foil out of 136 competitors.

Kaihatsu said he will look for top-16 finishes from Provencal and Patterson this weekend.

“Fencers from all over the country are going to make the trip,” freshman sabreist Chloe Grainger said. “It’s more than just a regular event so it should be tough, but all of the girls that are going are very capable of doing really well. It should be an exciting tournament.”

NU will bring two freshmen with success at the Junior Olympics. Kate Cavanaugh finished 17th in 2007, and Kendrick Mooney finished 16th in 2009 as independent high school competitors.

Kaihatsu said he sees this event as a chance for his young fencers to earn more time on the strip.

“This is a definite opportunity to show what they can do in an individual competion setting, which is the same as our conference championships,” Kaihatsu said. “The people going to this competition will benefit a lot … If nothing else, it’s one more competition under their belt.”

Provencal also hopes the trip will allow NU to better prepare itself for the rematch versus Notre Dame at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships in mid-March.

“Hopefully we’ll pinpoint some of the things that we’re not very good at with Notre Dame,” Provencal said. “We’ll work on (our weaknesses) so when we go to the Midwest Conference, we can take them down.”

Originally 13 NU fencers were slated to make the trip to Memphis, but that number quickly fell as team members succumbed to injuries and schoolwork.

For those who are staying in Evanston, the weekend serves as a chance to finish midterms and recuperate before conference and national championships.

“Hopefully they can keep their eyes on the path farther down the road,” Kaihatsu said, “while we focus on the competiton right in front of us.”

The Memphis crew will escape from the chilly campus confines for another chance to bond together.

“Whenever we go to these tournaments, it’s always good,” Provencal said. “We get close and we get the connections we need to really trust each other so that when we go to these team events, NCAA events, we feel very confident and very comfortable with each other.”[email protected]