Fencing: Northwestern to face Notre Dame in final duals

Abbey Chase, Reporter

With two team medals to their name, Northwestern’s Junior Olympic competitors will rejoin their fellow Wildcats this weekend for their final dual meet of the season at the Notre Dame Duals. 

While NU has posted some impressive results in individual competition, earning a first place finish in at least one event in five of the seven non-NCAA events entered, the dual meets have been crucial for helping the Cats prepare.

“I think that competing in all these dual meets has given us a lot of experience and confidence with our fencing,” freshman Jen Yamin said. “NCAA competition helps prepare us because there’s definitely more difficult competition than what we saw last weekend.”

Back fencing in the traditional collegiate format, NU will face only one real challenge at Saturday’s duals.

“The only team that’s going to present an issue is Notre Dame,” coach Laurie Schiller said. “We’ve beaten all the rest of the teams at least once already this season and beaten them fairly soundly so I don’t see any great issue. I would like to see the foil team do a better job against Air Force. When we fenced them the first time, we struggled some with them. It was close and we should do better than that against them and I think we will.”

Against the other five teams, NU holds a collective 203-25 record and beat Lawrence, Cleveland State and Detroit earlier this season, losing only four points in all three matches combined. 

But the Fighting Irish are another issue. The Cats’ Midwest Fencing Conference nemesis holds a 45-9 record against NU and won their only meeting earlier this season 19-8. In the latest rankings from CollegeFencing360.com, Notre Dame took over the No. 1 spot from Princeton, and has only surrendered one match all year, to No. 3 Columbia 14-13.

“We have to know that just because they’re good doesn’t mean that they can’t be beaten,” sophomore Courtney Dumas said. “I’ve beaten (Olympic bronze-medalist) Courtney Hurley at NYU and I’ve beaten Ashley Severson before. They’re both very strong fencers but they’re just as beatable, and the other squads can have just as much success against those girls. I think we just need to go in there with a strong attitude and really know that we can do anything, that we can go out there and win.”

On Sunday, the Cats will head to Columbus, Ohio to compete in the U.S. Squad Championships. Last year’s epee squad took home the silver medal, upsetting the No. 1 seed St. John’s along the way, to help NU secure a second place finish in the overall event. This year’s tournament will feature a smaller field of only seven teams, including NU, but in attendance will be three of the nation’s top-five squads. 

Heading into the weekend with a 34-7 record, the Cats will look to improve on their dual match tally before the start of post-season competition. On the horizon is the Midwest Fencing Conference Championship, where NU will face Notre Dame once again, followed by the start of the NCAA Championship. 

“I think in general it’s been a good season,” said Dumas, who was a part of last year’s second-place epee team at the Squad Championships. “I feel like we are always looked on as the third best team in the Midwest (Fencing Conference) but I think that as a team we have much more potential than that. I think sometimes we can get stuck in that mindset that, ‘Oh these teams have really good people and we’re not as good as that,’ but I think that that’s not true at all.”