The goals for Northwestern this year are simple.
“We want to win every dual meet, we want to get to the conference championship and we want to send six kids to NCAAs and finish in the top five,” coach Laurie Schiller said.
The Wildcats’ season kicks into high gear Jan. 17 with the Western Invitational in Colorado Springs, Colorado, following an impressive fall.
Schiller said he views the fall more as a “preseason” for his team, as the fencers do not face tough competition, and he uses the time primarily to learn about his players’ strengths and weaknesses, but it was a very successful preseason nonetheless.
“The two highlights we were looking for in the fall were how we were going to do against Notre Dame and the first set of dual meets,” Schiller said. “If you take Notre Dame’s Olympian out of the mix, we basically competed evenly with them. Considering they’re probably number one or two in the country – there are no polls yet, but there probably will be soon – I think that’s a good measure for us.”
Schiller said the dual meets were good for seeing how his fencers would work together as a team.
“In an individual sport – like tennis or swimming or wrestling, it’s always a little bit harder to get the team to be a team,” he said. “Going forward, we’re ready to work as a team and to win as a team.”
The Cats beat 12 squads in the NU Duals with a combined score of 298-26, but they should be even better in the winter. Injuries plagued the Cats in the fall, but now the team is fully healthy.
On top of that, junior epee Juliana Barrett has returned from a semester abroad in London and the talented freshman class has been acclimated to the team and is ready for tougher competition.
“We have great depth,” Schiller said. “We may not have any one person you can point to and say they’re top five in the country, and there’s some teams that can do that, but what we have is we’ve got four or five strong at every weapon.”
Schiller said that depth gives him greater flexibility to match up specific fencers against different competition and to replace a fencer if she’s not getting the job done.
“It’s gonna be interesting to see who breaks out here,” Schiller said. “But that’s part of the fun.”
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