Fencing: Cats to face Duke, UNC at weekend tournament

Dan Ryan

Northwestern will head to Durham for the Duke Duals this weekend with a record of 29-6.

Ask just about anyone on the team about its performance this season, however, and the response will be the same: the six losses should have been avoided.

“We definitely feel like we could have performed a lot better,” sophomore Chloe Grainger said.

The No. 7 Wildcats have performed well this season by most standards. They have looked dominant at times, sweeping away their competition effortlessly and looking like a team that deserves a top-five ranking.

But most standards are not as high as those of NU. Over the course of coach Laurie Schiller’s 33-year tenure, winning has become a Hallmark of the program.

By comparison, last year’s team finished 45-4, setting the program record for dual meet wins in a season. They finished third in the conference and eighth in the NCAA Championships.

Grainger said the team is not as experienced as it used to be.

“We definitely do place really high expectations on ourselves,” Grainger said. “But we’re still a really young team. I feel like we were a bit better last year.”

This year’s squad has already eclipsed last year’s in losses, having been defeated by six top-10 opponents. The team went 7-3 last weekend, losing to Temple, Princeton and Ohio State. The question looms as to whether or not this team can match its predecessor’s success in the postseason. “We were really tired,” Grainger said. “I wasn’t quite as focused and I don’t think I wanted it as much as I normally do, and I think that goes for across the board for the team.”

With the teeth of its schedule over, NU now looks to regroup and refine its play at the Duke Duals this weekend. After that, it will head to the USFA National Junior Olympics February 18 through 21 in Dallas, Texas.

The lineup the Cats will face in Durham is relatively easy; the team will face only North Carolina and Duke before returning home.

“We only have two meets this weekend and we have already beaten North Carolina, so I feel confident there,” Schiller said. “Duke is a better team and has the sabre silver medalist from Beijing, so we will have a bigger challenge there. We will be missing a couple starters so we will really have to step up and fence well.”

The dual meets and club competition in the upcoming month will provide an opportunity for the Cats to get in some extra experience before the conference championships begin in early March.

“Now that we’ve been burned a little bit we want to come back and do well,” Grainger said. “We definitely have the potential to do well in the postseason.”

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