Daily file photo by David Lee
In its first matches of the season at the Ohio State Invitational this weekend, Northwestern looked like a team that hadn’t performed competitively in over a year.
The Cats dropped all three matches on Saturday, falling to Duke, North Carolina, and Temple by wide margins. On Sunday, NU opened with a dominating win over Denison and followed with a redemptive victory over North Carolina. But the Cats couldn’t carry the momentum, falling to Penn State in the weekend’s final match.
Coach Zach Moss said the team was rusty entering the invitational.
“It’s been almost a year since we’ve really competed,” Moss said. “Normally we have preseason, we have competitions to ramp up. So I didn’t know what we would see.”
NU never got into its groove against the Blue Devils, falling 2-7 in sabre en route to a 16-11 loss. The Cats defeated Duke in their only matchup last season.
The Cats struggled against the Tar Heels, losing 2-7 and dropping the match 16-11. Temple proved an even tougher opponent as NU’s third matchup of the day, knocking off the Cats 18-9.
Moss said while he hoped for a different result, Saturday’s struggles weren’t entirely negative.
“I think we needed a day like that to learn to compete as a group,” Moss said. “It’s a new group and we hadn’t had that opportunity.”
Sunday proved to be a completely different story. NU dominated against Denison, winning 24-3. Moss praised freshman epee Sophie Brill, who won all three of her bouts.
The Cats built on their success in the second match, pulling out a huge 17-10 victory over North Carolina. Freshman sabre Sky Miller, who struggled on Saturday, came back in a big way against the Tar Heels, going 3-0.
Senior foil Justine Banbury also performed well, going undefeated in her bouts. Moss said he was impressed with her performance.
“Last year she had season-ending surgery,” Moss said. “She stepped in and did a really great job having to work through her first competition in a long time.”
NU took on the Nittany Lions in the final matchup of the weekend. The sabre team went 6-3, but the Cats couldn’t finish the day undefeated, falling 15-12.
Despite the loss, Moss was pleased with the team’s effort against Penn State.
“Arguably that was the strongest opponent we faced all weekend,” he said. “If we fenced like that the first day we would probably win them all.”
Now 2-4 in the young season, Moss says NU still hopes to win the conference and compete in the NCAA championships. But the team’s top priority is safety.
“My goal is to be able to successfully have a season,” Moss said. “That’s first and foremost, to be able to keep everybody healthy and safe in this environment.”
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