For the uninitiated, collegiate fencing features flurries of exhibitions — bouts and duels that mean nothing toward a school’s record or NCAA ranking but plenty toward the development of players that populate Division I (and other) rosters.
In reality, that pretty much encompasses all of October fencing, as Northwestern usually doesn’t even start tallying its collective record until the annual Western Invitational.
To kick off exhibition season, Northwestern traveled to Penn State last week and hosted the Remenyik ROC/RJCC the Saturday and Sunday prior. In those contests, the ‘Cats fared well to the tune of individual podium finishes at each event.
The spotlight was all on the freshmen in those two contests, as sabre Alex Chen outperformed star sophomore Megumi Oishi at Remenyik, and Adele Bois snagged a solid silver medal in the junior sabre category.
As NU’s swords headed into the season’s first North American Cup (NAC), hosted monthly, they each sought to continue fine-tuning their jabs and slices against some of the nation’s best competition. With the Western Invitational, put on by Air Force this season, this weekend, the October NAC was the last chance for members of the team to gear up for what’ll hopefully be a long year.
Six of Northwestern’s fencers entered the Division I sabre competition, and the veterans reclaimed their status as the team’s stalwarts. Sky Miller, a senior and a frequent podium-finder, offered up NU’s best performance. The North Carolina native finished No. 23 in a field of well over 150. On her tail was Oishi, who grabbed No. 32 in the event. Kailing Sathyanath, a junior from New Jersey, and Bois finished No. 52 and No. 55, respectively. The remaining ‘Cats placed in the 80s.
A surprise was due in the foil category, as first-year Karina Vasile snagged the top finish among Northwestern’s five entries. Vasile stayed off the award sheet in her first two meets, and while a 28th-ranked finish isn’t a podium spot, it certainly is eye-catching in an event featuring dozens of the nation's top foils. Behind Vasile was another freshman, Erika Castenada, who finished No. 63. Then came the usual suspects — Rowan Park (No. 67) and Yejine Lee (No. 73) — with Samantha Serban rounding out the pack at No. 81.
In the much-anticipated épée division, Northwestern’s roster had its hardest time. The top finish came courtesy of Anna Damratoski, a sophomore from New Jersey. She latched on to a 64th-place finish. Freshman Ava Wade-Currie was close behind, ending at No. 68. Karen Wang, who served as a cornerstone of the program last season, interestingly finished No. 81. The other two ‘Cats participating in the category finished below 160th.
It was a telling weekend for Northwestern. Strong freshman finishes must have head coach Zach Moss excited for what’s ahead. Unlike these notable debut successes, however, the veteran showings were different. Aside from Miller, who flexed in the sabre contest, upperclassmen didn’t garner quite the finishes they or Moss might’ve been hoping for.
With the Western Invitational — the first meaningful duel of the season — coming up on Nov. 4 and Nov. 5, Moss and Co. look to polish up in order to take on a tough slate of competing schools.