Fencing: Northwestern heads to Portland for away meet

Alex Lederman, Assistant Sports Editor

Northwestern returns to action this weekend at the North American Cup in Portland, Oregon.

“Everyone who’s aspiring to the world teams will be there this weekend,” coach Laurie Schiller said. “The kids we’ve got are good, and we’re going to see how we stack up against the best in the country.”

This is the Wildcats’ second tournament of the year, and the first of many on the road, after the United States Fencing Association Burton Open at Henry Crown Sports Pavilion.

At home, sophomores Cindy Oh and Stephanie Chan won gold for sabre and foil respectively. Sophomore Ania Parzecki and freshman Nika Shender joined Oh in the top five for sabre, while junior Jen Yamin and freshman Stefani Kahookele had semifinal runs of their own in foil.

Although the Cats did not come away with first place in epée, sophomore Mandeep Bhinder, freshman Anna Tolley and junior Kaitlyn Wallace finished in the top four.

“Last week, the Burton was a nice opening,” Schiller said. “But this is the first big test, and it’s a much stronger tournament. We’d like to use this to see how people are doing and to sketch out a plan of things to work on for the next few weeks. For us this is still kind of preseason.”

And Schiller has high expectations for the year.

“Above all I’m looking for a really good season,” he said. “I feel very positive. We have a new assistant coach Zach Moss, new freshmen, good vibes and we’re working hard. I just feel really, really up about the season so far. Every weekend, we’re going to get a taste and see what we can do.”

NU is traditionally a fencing powerhouse, finishing in the NCAA top ten for each of the past 14 seasons.

This year’s team has the depth necessary to continue that tradition.

At epée, NU has a strong top four. Junior Juliana Barrett leads the squad, followed by Wallace, Bhinder and junior Helen Foster. Tolley and fellow freshman Katie Van Riper will train underneath them.

The sabres are equally strong. Oh is coming off a 59-win freshman season, and her classmate Alisha Gomez-Shah is returning from a shoulder injury last year. Rounding out the current starters are sophomore Julia Abelsky and freshman Emine Yucel, with Parzecki and freshman Sacha Bazzal waiting in the wings.

The foil squad has the most depth of all.

“I’ve got a big foil team, so someone’s gonna get it done,” Schiller said. “I’ve added some real good strength to the foil squad this year.”

Right now, Schiller said he expects two freshmen, Kahookele and Kaila Budofsky, to play important roles this season. They join veterans Chan and Yamin on foil.

The Cats return home Oct. 25 for the USFA Remenyik Open.

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