Fencing: Northwestern sees star effort from epee, likely to get five to NCAA Championships

Kevin Casey, Sports Editor

No. 7 Northwestern entered the NCAA Midwest Regional on Saturday looking for six fencers to qualify for the NCAA Championship.

That elusive goal seems likely to pass by the Wildcats once again.

“After this performance, two are qualified and are four are at-large — two of those almost definitely and two of them it depends on what happens in other regions,” coach Laurie Schiller said. “I think five is a pretty good estimate of what we’ll get to NCAAs.”

But that doesn’t mean the Cats failed on Saturday. Hosting the event at Henry Crown Sports Pavilion, NU had no shortage of victories from its 12 competitors in action.

According to Schiller, the team shone most in epee, and the numbers bore that out.

Junior Helen Foster won 13 of 16 bouts on her way to a third-place finish in the epee group. NU’s other three entrants in that field all finished in the top 10 and with double digit wins as well.

Schiller added that sabre had a good showing, but foil performed OK.

However, he didn’t think foil was far off from achieving success.

“Kaila (Budofsky) and Stephanie Chan both won 8 bouts, and that’s pretty good against this field,” Schiller said. “They beat everyone they should’ve beaten, but with one or two exceptions. And that’s the difference.”

Budofski finished 10th in the foil pool, while Chan placed ninth.

Junior Jen Yamin, a Daily columnist, led the foil squad with a seventh-place finish with nine wins, and sophomore Alisha Gomez-Shah headed NU’s sabre group with a fifth.

The two spots among NU’s potential six most up in the air for NCAAs, according to Schiller, are the second sabre and the second foil. The second sabre would be sophomore Cindy Oh, and Schiller said she was one out prior to the Mid-Atlantic/South Regional.

The other spot in foil, which would go to Chan, is a bit more of a long shot.

“I think for Stephanie, there are going to have to be a few upsets in the Mid-Atlantic/South for her to make it,” Schiller said. “There are three people ahead of her, so it’s possible.”

The Cats have a youth-laden squad, with several sophomore and occasional freshmen contributions at regionals. No seniors fenced among the NU 12 on Saturday.

The NCAA Championship takes place from March 20-22 in Columbus, Ohio, with the list of participants coming out soon.

Whether it’s four, five or six, the Cats will once again be well represented when nationals commences in two weeks.