The fall preseason was stellar for the Wildcats — even with some injuries. Head coach Laurie Schiller has already voiced high expectations for his squad, including winning every dual meet, a trip to the conference championship and a top-five finish at NCAAs.
The work toward those goals starts this weekend in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the Western Invitational — the Cats’ opening event of the winter season.
The event has NU up against six other squads, and Schiller is confident there will be no opening setbacks.
“This is a group of teams that are not really at our level based on past experience,” Schiller said. “A couple of them are pretty good, and if we come in flat they can beat us. But I don’t think that is going to happen.”
The Cats had no problems in dispatching their quintet of foes at last year’s Western Invitational. This time around, the competition is much the same, with Stanford, UC San Diego, Caltech and Air Force returning, and Duke and Brandeis the only newcomers.
NU’s success stems from a number of key areas, but two of the most important factors are balance and depth.
The team thrives by possessing a series of strong competitors in foil, sabre and epee. The Cats also don’t put too much focus on one of these three compartments. Schiller emphasized it’s important not to be too dependent on one of these categories in order to be less susceptible to falling apart.
Sophomore Cindy Oh, one of the team’s most productive sabre members, also points to a strong team chemistry in preventing collapses in competition.
“We definitely trust each other, which is important because it’s just so high-paced and everyone is scattered around, fencing on their own,” Oh said. “To have that trust between each other definitely helps, and it’s motivational that we can all do well and get the win.”
This weekend’s event isn’t an affair of several highly ranked squads or a big end-of-season championship. Actually, besides its season-opening stature, the Western Invitational should be pretty innocuous to NU.
But for a team so dominant over the past 15 years, keeping up motivation is key. And there will be plenty this weekend.
“We’re a pretty strong squad,” sophomore Mandeep Bhinder said. “Some people underestimate us because we’re an only girls team. So I feel like us proving ourselves and beating the harder teams will show them that we’re not lower than them.”
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