Fencing: Cats leave tournament with no top finishers

Alex Lederman, Assistant Sports Editor

Northwestern flew home from the United States Fencing Association North American Cup in Portland, Oregon, this weekend without much to celebrate; the Wildcats’ top finisher placed 26th.

“While we didn’t have any spectacular results, we had solid fencing,” coach Laurie Schiller said. “And I don’t think the results necessarily, if you’re looking at them, reflect as well as they might in terms of what we actually did.”

Schiller said there were some solid bouts from his fencers that aren’t represented in the box score.

“Sometimes you lose bouts against stronger fencers,” he said. “One of our epeeists came up against one of the Olympians from the last cycle, and she fenced a good bout against her. But she lost, so she gets knocked out at that point.”

“That’s a tough person to have in your bracket,” he continued. “This tournament, a Division I tournament, is the highest level tournament for USA Fencing, so I feel like there was lots of good fencing that didn’t necessarily get reflected in the fact that we won or we lost that particular bout.”

The event kicked off Friday with the Division I women’s sabre event. Sophomores Cindy Oh and Julia Abelsky led NU with 26th and 42nd-place finishes, respectively, in a field of 103. Behind them sat freshmen Emine Yucel at 49 and Sacha Bazzal at 78.

The action continued Saturday with Division I women’s epee. Junior Kaitlyn Wallace placed 32nd of 150 fencers, while sophomore Mandeep Bhinder landed 86th, freshman Katie Van Riper tied for 137th and junior Helen Foster tied for 147th.

Lastly was the Division I foil competition Sunday. The top Cats finishers in the 121-person event were junior Charlotte Sands at 28, freshman Kaila Budofsky at 42 and sophomore Stephanie Chan right behind her at 43.

Schiller said the Cats view this tournament as a “stepping stone” for the regular season and that tournaments this early always function as a preseason for his team.

“We’re a little rusty around the edges on some things,” he said. “We can do a little better job controlling and making our actions sometimes simpler and sometimes a little bit more complex depending on the situation.”

In fact, fencing isn’t so different from another sport preparing to start its season.

“It’s kind of like preseason basketball,” Schiller said. “You run through the plays, and some of them you’re able to work in.”

Schiller said he still has some choices to make about who will start what matches. He said he has not made any decisions yet and that he still has time to figure that out. His primary goal for this tournament was collecting data.

“The tournament served its purpose,” he said. “We got kids into some high level competition, and we got to see all the freshmen fence against that competition and perform. For where we are in the season, it was a good weekend.”

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