Fencing: Northwestern competes at 2022 October NAC


Seeger Gray/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern fencers. The Wildcats took on a mix of veterans, recruits and college athletes at the October NAC 2022.

Charlotte Varnes, Sports Editor

When Northwestern competed at the 2022 October North America Cup over the weekend, it was quite different from a typical college tournament.

The Wildcats’ results were individual, not team-based. Fencing in an open-age category, NU faced off against a mix of recruits, seasoned veterans and fellow college athletes. USA Fencing hosted the event, meaning some of the Cats’ former club teammates and coaches were present. 

But coach Zach Moss said it was a perfect opportunity for growth. 

“The way they reset after a loss, the way they dealt with pressure and were still able to fence within themselves, was really positive to see,” Moss said. “That’s one of the challenges within our sport — how do you respond to pressure? How do you deal with loss?”

Fourteen athletes attended the meet, competing in a mix of saber, foil and epee. NU’s top performers included freshman sabre Megumi Oishi, who finished 43rd; freshman epee Anna Damratoski, who tied for 60th and foils sophomore Rowan Park, sophomore Yejine Lee and freshman Allison Lee, who all tallied top-70 finishes.

Moss said the diversity of ages competing at the event presented “unique challenges” — players might take on a teenager trying to get recruited or someone in their late 20s or 30s with a strong tactical game. He said the weekend’s bouts acted as a test for the Cats, allowing them to see what they need to work on individually and as a group.

For Oishi, the October NAC was a familiar event. She attended the competition several times as a youth fencer, and this season’s NAC marked her first time at the event with her college team. 

Coming from a small fencing club, Oishi said she appreciated the support system she has at NU. Help from saber coach Dennis Kolakowski and cheering teammates made for an especially encouraging environment, Oishi said. 

Some of NU’s future recruits competed at the October NAC as well. Seeing recruits at tournaments is a great way to continue building relationships, Moss said. While future Cats were at the tournament with their youth club teams, Moss said they were still able to connect. 

One of the Cats’ current players even stacked up against a member of the Class of 2027, but Moss said it’s not ideal when future and current Cats compete.

“One way or the other, somebody’s unhappy,” Moss said. “We worked through it.”

With just two tournaments under their belt, the weekend’s matchup was also an important learning opportunity for the Cats’ underclassmen. It was NU’s first time traveling this season, which Oishi said led to bonding opportunities and becoming more integrated with the team. 

After two consecutive weekends competing, NU will take a break until the Temple Open on Oct. 29. The program will focus on elevating individual play and continuing to improve team culture and work together over the next few weeks, Oishi said. 

Moss said the early part of the season tends to focus on building physical stamina after spending a summer training individually. Now, he’s hoping to move the team toward more of a technical focus. 

The Temple Open is another individual meet, which Moss said provides more opportunities to assess individual play ahead of the college season. 

“It’s another testing grounds to see, ‘Where are we at?’” Moss said. “‘What do we need to focus on as we transition into regular season events? Where do we need to improve?’” 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charvarnes11

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