Fencing: Wily Wildcats hit the road again


Daily file photo by Skylar Zhang

Freshman foilist Jen Yamin competes during the NU duals. Yamin and the Wildcats will participate in the Duke duals this weekend.

Abbey Chase, Reporter

When asked about Northwestern’s match against Princeton last weekend, coach Laurie Schiller let out an audible groan. But it was an optimistic groan.

“That was an excellent effort,” Schiller said. “They had three of their fencers off at the World Cup in epee, but they still have an extraordinarily deep team, and they had to put their Olympian in, (Susannah) Scanlan, in order to beat us. And we still took a bout off her anyway. That was a great match.”

Even without the win, the Wildcats have a lot to be confident about after staring down the country’s top team because at this point in the season, there’s still a next time.

“Regular season is interesting because at the end, you see who learned the most from their losses,” senior Dayana Sarkisova said.

NU has had its share of challenges this season. With injuries plaguing many of the team’s top competitors, the Cats have had to rely heavily on their freshmen class.

“As a team, I think because it’s so young, there’s so much we’re trying to learn about ourselves,” Sarkisova said. “It’s really cool seeing the freshmen learn things each week and come back with new experiences. As long as we keep improving, that’s the most I could ask for.”

Sarkisova has been battling an ankle injury through the first part of the season but has already picked up 33 bout wins in just two weeks.

“Every weekend is a little bit of a shock to my system, but it’s getting better and better as I fence more,” Sarkisova said. “The more I train, the more confident I feel. I’m just trying to get back into as much as possible and make up for lost time.”

For sophomore Courtney Dumas, it’s her knee that’s been the problem, but that hasn’t stopped her from taking out her toughest competition. She has won 81 percent of her bouts this season, and in NU’s thrilling match against Princeton, Dumas scored a critical bout win over bronze medalist Scanlan to help keep her team in contention against the Tigers.

“That was probably the highlight of the weekend for me,” Dumas said about her win over Scanlan. “That was very exciting. Francesca Bassa, who I lost to 5-4 from Stanford, she was the fifth (on the Olympic epee squad) so she almost made the team. Coming that close, it’s a really nice confidence booster to see that I’m fencing so well against these girls.”

After a dramatic weekend at home, NU will be back on the road at the Duke Duals on Sunday. The Cats’ toughest competition will be No. 5 Penn State, a team that holds a 17-5 lifetime record against NU. But the two teams have not met since 2009, with the Nittany Lions getting the upper hand in that match 20-7.

Duke, MIT and UNC make up the rest of the weekend’s lineup, and while all are top-20 teams, NU has won 75 percent of its matches against them combined.

Last weekend’s near-upset has given the Cats an extra spring in their step heading into their next competition, but with such a young team, there’s still work to be done.

“We need to have more consistency from the freshmen,” Schiller said. “The team format is somewhat different, and if they haven’t fenced on a team before and understand how that works, it can be hard. At a North American Cup, if you fence and lose, you’re out. Here, you lose and you’re annoyed and you’re upset, but you have to get back on the strip. You can’t be out. Getting used to that and how that works is a big deal for them. I think they understand that now. It’s just question of getting more consistent.”