Fencing: Wildcats fall to top-10 foes in season’s final dual meet

Alex Lederman, Reporter

No. 9 Northwestern traveled to South Bend, Ind. for the Notre Dame Duals this weekend and came home with losses to three ranked opponents — No. 2 Ohio State, No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 6 Penn State. 

“Win or lose dual meets — of course you want to win them — but I always look at the dual meets as preparation for the postseason,” Coach Laurie Schiller said. “We’re gonna see these teams at the conference and the regional championships, and that’s when it matters that you beat them, more than beating them in the dual meets.”

First, the Wildcats (31-6) took on the Buckeyes. It was the second time the teams have squared off, with Ohio State taking the first matchup at the NYU Invitational, 23-4. NU didn’t fare much better this time around, dropping this weekend’s meeting 18-9. There were some promising signs, though, as underclassmen Kaitlyn Wallace and Mandeep Bhinder led the epee squad to a 5-4 victory.

Next up for the Cats was Notre Dame, but NU’s luck did not turn around against the Fighting Irish, who topped the Cats 20-7. NU has now lost both of its meetings with Notre Dame this season. This time, the sabres claimed a 5-4 victory for NU, with freshmen Cindy Oh and Ania Parzecki each earning a pair of wins apiece.

In their final match of the morning, the Cats faced off against a foe they had not yet fought this season — Penn State. The Nittany Lions proved too much for the Cats to handle, and the higher ranked team came away with a 16-11 victory. Once again NU was not held winless, with the epee unit snatching a 6-3 win.

“Our sabre team beating Notre Dame and epee team beating Penn State were two really big highlights, especially the Penn State epee,” Schiller said. “Those were two very, very strong fencers that they had that we took four bouts off of.”

NU cruised to victories in their afternoon fights. The Cats nearly swept Cleveland State and Detroit, scoring a pair of 26-1 victories, and they also topped Wayne State with ease, 20-7.

Now, the Cats look ahead to the postseason. Conference championships, regionals and the NCAA Championships are all coming up in March.

And what exactly is Schiller having his squad do to prepare? To start with, nothing.

“We’re gonna take a little bit of time off,” Schiller said. “I’m reducing some of the hours of practice the next couple of weeks. I want the kids to get their schoolwork done. I want them to get healthy.”

A week before conference championships, the team will switch into high gear as it prepares for the playoffs, Schiller said. The players will watch tape, specifically of Ohio State and Notre Dame, and work to fix all the specific issues they have faced.

“I keep forgetting that I got mostly freshmen and sophomores going,” Schiller said. “It’s a very young group, and I think that bodes well for the postseason and for the future.”

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