Fencing: Veteran Courtney Dumas anchors Northwestern squad in solid weekend outing

Ellie Friedmann and Alex Lederman

On a team that’s almost half freshmen, it was a veteran who shone for the Wildcats (16-0) this weekend at the USFA North American Cup in Virginia Beach, Va.

Junior Courtney Dumas stole the show with a sixth-place finish out of 132 fencers in the Division 1 women’s epee event.

“Courtney is trying to get up on the national points list, so that performance was very good for her,” coach Laurie Schiller said.

Dumas was undefeated at the tournament until a 15-14 loss in the quarterfinals to St. John’s’ Alina Ferdman, the event’s eventual silver-medalist. Dumas said her main goal was to earn points, which can help her chances of qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“I’ve been dreaming about the Olympics for a long time,” she said. “Even before I started fencing, I knew I wanted to be there someway somehow, and fencing has sort of given me that outlet.”

Aside from Dumas, Northwestern brought eight other fencers to the tournament, all freshmen. The young Cats had strong performances from Mandeep Bhinder, who finished 17th of 120 fighters in junior women’s epee; Stephanie Chan and Kayla Kelch, who placed 22nd and 30th, respectively, out of 119 in junior women’s foil; and Alicia Gomez-Shah, who earned 15th place of 108 in Division 1 women’s saber.

“These are mostly freshmen, so for me it was a chance to watch a lot of them compete and get a feeling for their strengths,” Schiller said. “When we have our home duals, they’re all gonna get a chance to get in there, and I have a fair idea of who can do what and in what specific place to use them.”

Bhinder not only competed in the junior matches, but also in the Division 1 epee event. She earned her first top-level points by placing 30th, 24 spots behind Dumas. Fencers in the Division 1 event had to qualify based on their rating as opposed to those in the junior tournament, so Bhinder said the competition in her second event was more difficult than in the first, but also more rewarding.

“After coming to Northwestern, I’ve been getting a lot more practice, so I figured I would do better than I normally would have,” Bhinder said. “When you get top 32 in a competition, you get points, so I’ve now gotten points. This is my first Division 1 tournament that I got top 32, so it was good.”

Bhinder said that although she is ranked about 25th in the country for junior women, she does not yet have a Division 1 spot. Her performance Sunday will put her on the map for the more prestigious rankings.

The undefeated Cats’ next competitions will take place this Saturday at the NYU Duals in New York and Sunday at the Penn Duals in Philadelphia. NU will compete against top competition, including Temple, Penn, New York University and Ohio State.

Dumas said her performance in Virginia Beach helped boost her confidence for the tough competition this weekend.

“Everyone is really excited for this upcoming dual meet,” Dumas said. “It’s going to be a tough one, but we’re pumped to continue our great results from Stanford.”

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