Fencing: Wildcats to face strong lineup at Philadelphia Invitational


Daily file photo by David Lee

A Northwestern fencer clashes swords with an opponent. The Wildcats are headed to Philadelphia this weekend.

Stephen Council, Reporter


Northwestern will test its mettle, and its focus, against some of the top talent in the country this Sunday.

The Wildcats are heading to the Philadelphia Invitational, the second in a series of winter team meets with escalating difficulty. NU, which is 23-1 thus far on the season, will look to build on last weekend’s sweep at the Western Invitational and fully refocus post-Winter Break.

The Cats are set to face Columbia, Temple and Yale in Pennsylvania, all of whom finished last season in the top 10 of CollegeFencing360.com’s Women’s Coaches Poll rankings. NU will also face Drew and New York University in the multi-team event.

Despite last weekend’s success, coach Zach Moss says there is room for improvement— He’d like his fencers to start just as strong as they fence throughout the day. In practice this week, he said he’s emphasized preparing with the right mindset.

“We’ve been really successful this season because of the process that we’ve put in place, and that everyone on the team has bought into,” Moss said.

The process Moss alludes to is oriented around focus. While his team has thrived this season, the sabre squad in particular has struggled with individual inconsistency.

What gets fencers in trouble, he said, is focusing on things they can’t control, like referees and opponents.

“What you can control is your mental approach, your physical approach, how you’re tactically thinking about your game and how you fence. So, a lot of what we do in training, a lot of what we talk about, is ‘How do we maximize those things?’” Moss said.

Graduate sabre Emine Yücel, now in her fifth year fencing for the Cats, said that it’s always challenging to return from Winter Break. The group of fencers going to Philadelphia is different from the Western Invitational participants, but Yücel is among the overlap.

Facing off against typically-ranked teams like Columbia and Yale, she said, can give the Cats the important wins that push the team up in the rankings. This year’s first official rankings will likely be released by Sunday. With only one loss on the season, to defending national champion Notre Dame, NU is poised to claim a top spot in the highly competitive field.

“We have the talent and the energy and the conditioning,” Yücel said. “So as long as the focus is there, there’s no reason we won’t win any of the bouts we’re fencing.”

First-year epée Emma Scala didn’t travel with the team to Western Invitational last weekend, so Philadelphia will be her first team competition since Winter Break. She said she has been busy at school, with four new classes and sorority recruitment. At this meet, she said she’ll aim to stay focused and disciplined on the mat, only thinking about fencing.

Scala said she knows some of the fencers the Cats will face this weekend from high school and from a recent national tournament. She said she’s excited to face off against the East Coast teams and that she hopes NU can keep high energy on the sidelines this Sunday.

“I really liked our spirit this year,” Scala said. “So I hope that that continues throughout the season, especially as it gets tough.”

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