Fencing: Wildcats garner six medals at Conference Championships

Freshman foilist Charlotte Sands competes at NU Duals. Sands had two wins against Indiana, but Northwestern lost to the foil bronze medal competition to Wayne State.

Daily file photo by Skylar Zhang

Freshman foilist Charlotte Sands competes at NU Duals. Sands had two wins against Indiana, but Northwestern lost to the foil bronze medal competition to Wayne State.

Abbey Chase, Reporter

In their last weekend before the start of NCAA competition, the Wildcats faced off against not only two familiar rivals, Ohio State and Notre Dame, but also frequently against one another.

In the individual competition at the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships on Saturday, Northwestern took home four medals across the three events.

“I was happy with the entire team,” coach Laurie Schiller said. “I thought everyone was at a very good level from top to bottom. The epee team, for example, the only bouts they lost all day were basically to themselves for the most part.”

The epee competition opened the day and with junior Dina Bazarbayeva leading the squad with a silver medal finish. NU occupied two of the other four top-five spots, with sophomore Courtney Dumas taking the bronze and defending champion senior Kate Cavanaugh coming in fifth.

En route to the final match, Bazarbayeva took out her three of her teammates: freshman Kaitlyn Wallace, Cavanaugh in a tight 14-13 bout and Dumas in the semifinals.

“There were definitely a couple things I could have done differently,” Bazarbayeva said of her gold medal bout against Ewa Nelip from Notre Dame. “I think I rushed through my bout and when I look back at it, there are some things I would have done differently … but I thought it was a good bout and I had a really tough line leading up to that final bout. I’d had to fence Kaitlyn and then Kate and then Courtney so I was pretty happy with how I finished.”

Senior Dayana Sarkisova led NU in the foil competition. In the semifinals, Sarkisova was forced to withdraw from the bout because of an injury but would go on to earn a bronze medal, leading the Cats in the event in which four members of NU’s team placed in the top 15.

“She does have an injury and she aggravated the injury, so it was our decision to pull her at that point and then we didn’t permit her to fence on Sunday,” Schiller said. “The NCAA Regional (next weekend) is ultimately more important than the conference. The same thing happened with (freshman) Jen Yamin. It impacted how the team did on Sunday but every coach and every trainer and every athlete has to make those decisions as to what’s best for the athlete and what’s best in the long-run for what we’re trying to accomplish.”

To wrap up Saturday, the sabre squad took to the strips, with each of NU’s three competitors emerging from pool play undefeated. In the quarterfinals, teammates met once again in a battle between seniors Alicia Gurrieri and Chloe Grainger. Gurrieri narrowly edged out her teammate 15-14 before going on to finish third.

“The fact that they met in the later rounds was indicative of how well people fenced because sometimes somebody doesn’t do that well and then you meet them in the round of 64 or 32, and that’s lousy,” Schiller said. “The bad thing is you have to fence a teammate but the good thing is one of you advances. From a team perspective, it’s nice that you get somebody up there but from a personal perspective, I’m sitting there and I can’t watch. You can’t coach teammate against teammate.”

After competing against each other Saturday, the sabre team came out Sunday morning to compete in the squad event and fought their way to a bronze medal. The epee squad, which earned a second-place finish last year, matched their teammates’ result by defeating Michigan State to take home a bronze medal.

“Last year, we were really close to winning, so that was pretty upsetting,” Bazarbayeva said. “This year, before going to Notre Dame, I didn’t think we could win but once we got there, I looked at the crowd we had to fence and I was a lot more optimistic … So that was kind of upsetting because we could have beaten Ohio State (in the semifinals). It was not what I was hoping for but we all fenced really well and worked together well as a team and it was a close match.”

The foil squad, missing two of its key fencers, put itself in a position to medal but fell in overtime to Wayne Sate in the third place match.

“We made the decision to hold people out because they need to be healthy for next week,” Schiller said. “That’s what’s more important … We wanted a better result. But is there anything to get really upset about with the team? No. They went out there and fought hard and that’s all you can ask.”