Both the men’s and women’s fencing teams got off to a strong start at the Garret Penn State Open last Sunday, with members of both squads finishing in the top 10 in their respective events.
The open featured competitors from 12 different schools across the country, including the 2013–14 NCAA Champion Nittany Lions. Captain Hugh O’Cinneide ’15 led the Bulldogs with a eighth-place finish in the saber competition, where he advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Cristoph Ruenz of University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill. Meanwhile, Katherine Miller ’16 finished in a tie for third in epee with Safa Ibrahim of Temple University.
The men’s team had an especially strong showing in the foil competition, where four Bulldogs — Jake Stein ’17, Jin Ishizuka ’16, Brian Wang ’16 and Paul Wong ’18 — nabbed spots among the top 20. Avery Vella ’18 performed well in his first meet with Yale, leading the squad in the epee competition where he finished 24th.
“I fenced a lot of really good fencers and went overtime with a couple of them, having a lot of close 5–4 bouts,” Vella said. “I thought it was a really good start to the season for me.”
Reed Srere ’17, who placed in the top 20 at last year’s NCAA tournament along with O’Cinneide, finished 16th in the saber.
Both Srere and Vella noted that the tournament presented a chance to see how the team would manage to fill the holes left by graduating seniors. In particular, the epee squad lost all three of its starting members last year.
“It was nice to see a lot of people stepping up,” Srere said. “It was nice to see all these fresh faces showing up and performing well.”
Four women placed in the top 20 in their events as well. Joanna Lew ’17 finished sixth in the saber event and Ilana Kamber ’18 finished close behind in 15th. Captain Lauren Miller ’15 led the charge in the foil event, snagging an eighth-place finish. Olivia Briffault ’17 also finished in the top 20 in the women’s epee event, behind Miller.
Lew noted that the women’s team has already seen dramatic improvements this season, particularly in regard to their footwork. Beyond simply focusing on the outcomes of matches, Lew remarked that the team is seeking to improve on its technical skills.
“I think our primary goal is to clean up our bladework — make everything neater, cleaner and more organized,” Lew said.
Along with Vella, Lew said that the Garret Open was unlike individual matches where fencers are often isolated from each other. Instead, this tournament offered a chance for both the men’s and women’s teams to support and encourage their teammates in a less-pressured environment.
The next competition for both the women’s and the men’s teams will take place at the Brandeis Invitational on Dec. 7.