Fencing: Northwestern competing for U.S. Collegiate Squad Championships

Benjamin Taylor

This past weekend, youth led the way.

A few Northwestern freshmen had a very successful weekend at the United States Fencing Association Junior Olympic Fencing Championships. In addition to freshman epeeist Courtney Dumas continuing her rookie season dominance in individual events with an eighth-place finish, NU’s epee squad that included Dumas, Sonali Patel and Rose Semmel finished 3rd in the team event.

“I was very pleased with Courtney Dumas’ performance,” coach Laurie Schiller said. “The epee squad fought very hard. It was a great tournament.”

While these select freshmen were competing in the event in Salt Lake City, the remainder of the NU fencers were resting up for one of the toughest tournaments they will take part in this season, the U.S. Collegiate Squad Championships.

“I’m just really excited to get back to competing,” junior foilist Dayana Sarkisova said. “I wanted a break after the NU Duals (two weeks ago), but now I am just really excited to get back out on the strip with the squad again.”

The event, which will occur this Saturday on the campus of New York University, will feature several squads from the top collegiate fencing teams in the nation competing in 45 touch relay bouts. Teams that will be attending include No. 1 Ohio State, No. 3 Princeton, No. 4 Notre Dame, No. 5 St. Johns, No. 6 Columbia-Barnard and host NYU.

Schiller said the tournament poses an opportunity for the No. 8 Wildcats to gain some experience and confidence while also having some fun before the beginning of the postseason at the Midwestern Conference Championships next weekend.

“One, we want to have some fun,” Schiller said. “Two, it will be good preparation for the conference and regional (championships) and three, we want to come home with some bling, as they say.”

On top of the challenging competition this weekend, NU will also have to deal with competing under a new format this weekend. Instead of competing in the dual-tournament format the Cats usually do, this weekend each squad will be competing in a race to 45 total touches or nine rounds, whichever happens first.

Although Schiller said he sees this as a possible challenge, he said several fencers have had experience with this arrangement before in different USFA competitions, which should help the Cats this weekend.

“Most of these kids have had experience with this format at USFA tournaments,” Schiller said, “so they should be ready to go.”

Several of the fencers said they feel their respective squads will have very good weekends at the event, which will help them as the team enters the postseason.

“I can only speak for my own squad, but we definitely want to win it all,” Sarkisova said. “There will be some really good teams there, but nobody we haven’t faced before.”