Fencing: Wildcats look to trade mettle for medals at Junior Olympic Championships

Senior foilist Dayana Sarkisova competes during the NU Duals. The Wildcats will participate in the USA Fencing Junior Championships this weekend.

Daily file photo by Skylar Zhang

Senior foilist Dayana Sarkisova competes during the NU Duals. The Wildcats will participate in the USA Fencing Junior Championships this weekend.

Abbey Chase, Reporter

Until last weekend, the Wildcats had experienced a relatively steady season, beating the opponents they were supposed to beat but lacking what senior Chloe Grainger called a “signature win.” With a victory over Penn State, Northwestern scored its first upset win of the season Sunday, but it was preceded by an uncharacteristic loss at the hands of Duke.

“We have quite a young team this year, so I think some of the younger, less experienced competitors kind of struggled,” Grainger said regarding the Duke match. “They hadn’t been in that kind of situation where we were losing to someone that we shouldn’t really be losing to, and I think it kind of affected them, and we weren’t able to really close it the way we would want.”

Back on their own again this weekend, eight of the team’s freshmen, as well as sophomore Courtney Dumas, will head to the Junior Olympic Championships to compete for individual as well as team titles before gearing up for the Cats’ final regular season event at the Notre Dame Duals the following week. 

At the qualifying event in December, NU swept in all three weapons with freshmen Haley Hart, Mikela Goldstein and Cara Franke winning the epee, foil and sabre events, respectively. 

“This is the first year in the past few years that I didn’t auto-qualify for Junior Olympics by being on the points list, so that was a little frustrating,” Goldstein said. “I really tried to take it for what it was. I knew I had to do well in the competition. I just fenced strong and beat who I needed to beat.”

The season has taken its toll on the Cats, and the team heads into the weekend with some nagging injuries.

“It depends a lot on our injury situation,” Coach Laurie Schiller said. “We’ve got a few girls banged up, but if we’ve got everybody going well, we have a good shot at a medal I would think in both foil and epee.”

In addition to competing in their individual events, the Cats will team up to form two epee teams and one foil team that will represent NU in the junior squad competition. 

“I love team events, especially non-collegiate events,” Goldstein said. “It’s a relay up to 45, so if one of your teammates falls behind, you have to go in and pick up the slack knowing that your teammates will do the same for you. We love having (senior All-American) Dayana (Sarkisova) on the foil squad with us, but here is our chance for us freshmen to show what we can do and have a big result and do very well.”

Freshmen Jen Yamin is the highest NU seed in the foil event at No. 10 while Dumas will be the most highly favored of all her teammates with a seventh seed in the epee competition. Dumas was a member of the bronze medal epee squad last year and notched an eighth place finish in individual competition.

“As far as individuals go, Courtney Dumas has been doing the best in the juniors for epee, but she’s got some knee issues,” Schiller said. “We’ll have to see how that affects what she does. But she’s got a lot of determination.”