Fencing: Wildcats focused on First Home Duals of Season

Dan Ryan

Northwestern head fencing coach Laurie Schiller had to chuckle a bit when talking about his team’s performance so far this season. In his 33rd year at the helm of NU’s fencing program, the grizzled veteran expects perfection from his squad every week. And so far this year, that is almost what his team has given him.

“You can always do better. At this point I was willing to accept the two losses to Notre Dame but not the one to Ohio State. But at 22-3 that’s kind of nitpicking,” Schiller said with a laugh.

At roughly the halfway point in the season, there is very little to complain about with this squad. The Sabre and Epee teams, although inexperienced, are fencing well, and the foil team has been a sensation.

“I’m really proud of us,” sophomore foilist Dayana Sarkisova said. “We’ve been winning all the matches we’re supposed to win and even winning some of the ones we weren’t supposed to win. That’s the sign of a strong team.”

At 191-34, the foil team has been a major part of the Wildcats success all season. As good as the team was last year, this season’s team is outperforming them, and for Sarkisova, the explanation comes down to intangibles.

“We have really great chemistry as a squad and we’re really supportive of each other,” Sarkisova said. “We were good last year and we realized we got even stronger this year. That increased confidence made us even better.”

NU takes on strong opponents Temple, Ohio State, and Princeton this weekend at the Northwestern Duals, but the Cats enter the matches with revenge on their minds. The last time the foil team lost was at the Philadelphia Invitational to Temple, and NU has not forgotten about the close loss to Ohio State at the Notre Dame Duals

“They have a little bit of fire in their bellies to beat Temple,” Schiller said. “And they want to beat Ohio State too. But their biggest challenge will probably be Princeton.”

After this weekend, the Cats’ schedule softens considerably. Dual meets at Duke and Northwestern will be broken up by the USFA Junior National Olympics, and then postseason play begins.

“This weekend marks the end of the tough stuff,” Schller said. “After that we have Duke and they’re tough but then it’s really only club matches and then conference will be the next focus.”

As the schedule draws to a close, however, NU’s focus only intensifies.

“There’s going to be some really strong teams there, but I think we’re the strongest in the country,” Sarkisova said. “It’s definitely time to start sweeping the rest of these meets.”

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