Women’s fencing continues its winning streak this season, emerging undefeated from the Northwestern Duels last weekend. The Red now holds 32 consecutive NCAA wins, breaking the program’s record.
The team’s season began with its 7-0 win at the Vassar Invitational, a 5-0 win at the Brandeis Invitational, a 7-0 victory at the Philadelphia Invitational and most recently, a 13-0 win at the Northwestern Duals, including a 15-12 victory against Notre Dame, one of the best fencing teams in the country.
These record-breaking showings also mark the team’s first competitions since the canceled 2020-2021 season. After cancellations, the team had to adapt to new in-person training restrictions and a lack of tournaments. During the canceled season, the fencers prepared by meeting on Zoom, adapting their training schedule and feverishly studying past matches, recording notes on a shared spreadsheet.
“That intensive video review was really helpful this season. It’s not that we know exactly what we’re going to walk into for every bout and every person, but as a general framework, we could use it to accelerate the win process,” said senior epee captain Megan Eno.
The canceled season also prevented many fencers from gaining practice in competitions. Nearly half of the team had never competed on a collegiate level coming into the 2021-2022 season, and only three senior fencers had competed during an uninterrupted season. Because fencers typically compete on an individual level in high school, the transition to the team-based competitions at the collegiate level can be a great shift.
“It can be a challenge for a lot of fencers, but our young women have really done a fantastic job at making that transition and handling the pressure,” Eno said.
The team’s season debut at the Temple Invitational provided many first-year fencers with the opportunity to adjust to the team-oriented, college-level competition.
“We went into the year trying to do extra games and setting expectations. We added tournaments we don’t normally go to,” said head coach Ariana Klinkov.
The result so far has been remarkable in the program’s history: women’s fencing is currently undefeated this season in the NCAA.
The coaches attribute at least part of their success to the particularly active role the team’s captains take in the coaching process, often running drills, analyzing video footage and personally instructing their teammates.
“We have an extraordinarily strong group of captains, all of whom have extensive competition experience and success within the competitive environment,” Klinkov said. “This is a group of captains that really wants to make sure people are fighting for the team.”
Senior saber captain Gillian Harrill also emphasized the importance of her leadership role to connect the coaching staff and student athletes.
“One part of being a captain is administrative, working with the coaches to communicate with the team,” Harrill said. “The other part is being a leader and inspiring people, making sure that people are cheering for each other at competitions and everyone is doing their part. I think it’s also a mentorship role because we have a really young team.”
From dutifully cheering their teammates during bouts to doing shoutouts on the bus home and identifying teammates’ strengths and weaknesses, the team strives to maintain a positive community.
“It’s just really awesome to see us grow together and learn how to be super supportive and figure out what each of us needs from each other,” said junior foil captain Madi Nishimura. “I think that usually takes a lot of time, and learning to pick that up quickly was really awesome.”
The team now prepares for the Ivy League Championship in Providence, Rhode Island next week beginning February 12.