Heading into the bulk of its season, the fencing team’s dominant fall showing has served as the perfect prelude to 2013. Aside from talent, it’s teamwork that has contributed to Northwestern’s spot in the top 10.
“There are two scenarios,” coach Laurie Schiller said of his team. “They can all turn into a bunch of squabbling, ‘I hate you’ people or they can work together as a team, and I’ve been very pleased with their working together as a team. Their feelings are that they’re all there to help each other and whoever is out there is out there, and that’s the kind of team effort that you want that’s sometimes hard to get in an individual sport as opposed to a team sport.”
At their first tournament of the year, the Wildcats swept the three titles at the Burton Open, with sophomore Courtney Dumas picking up her second straight gold medal in epee and senior team captains Alicia Gurrieri and Dayana Sarkisova taking first place in the saber and foil events, respectively.
“She’s not a whiner,” Schiller said of Dumas. “She’s got that kind of tough mentality, and I wish more of the kids had that because that’s what makes the champion, the kid that believes they can do it and wants to do it enough that it hurts.”
On the heels of her Burton title defense, the sophomore epeeist earned a bronze at the Remenyik Open and at the November USA Fencing North American Cup the following weekend, taking first in her pool.
“I was really happy to repeat at the Burton,” Dumas said. “I finished well in all three Division I events that I went to this year so far, and I finished the best in those that I have before. … Coming in, I had never made the top 16 in a Division I event before, and to consistently do it three times is something that I was really proud of.”
Another fall standout was fellow epeeist Dina Bazarbayeva who returned to the pitch after being sidelined by injury during the 2012 season.
“It makes me more motivated,” Bazarbayeva, a junior who claimed the gold at the Remenyik Open in November, said of her absence from last year’s squad. “I didn’t redshirt which I kind of regret now because I thought I could make it even without practicing, but I trained all summer and I’ve been training over break, so I think it looks good.”
Opening their 2013 season, the Cats will head to Pasadena, Calif., for the Western Invitational. In last year’s event, NU won its six duals easily, dropping just nine of 162 bouts. Despite their head-to-head advantage heading into the weekend, Schiller isn’t taking the duals lightly.
“If you’re going to be successful against the strong team, you have to be equally successful against the weaker team,” Schiller said. “You can’t flub your way through the weaker team even though you’re still going to beat them 5-3. You should be beating them 5-0 because otherwise you’re being lazy. You need to focus on each match as though it were the No. 1 team in the country.”
As the season progresses, the Cats will be going up against teams that they have not performed well against in the past, but Schiller is optimistic.
“My slogan this year is ‘Fear purple,” Schiller said. “Being in the top 10 isn’t good enough. I want to be the Midwest Champion, and we were two touches away from that last year, and it wasn’t good enough. Now unfortunately, Notre Dame has picked up two Olympians from this year. Well, you know what? So what? They can be beaten too.”