Blend of Youth and Experience Gets it Done in 2006

2005-06 was another successful season for the Penn fencing program. A team that featured no seniors and had to count on a number of freshmen to contribute made the season outlook skeptical. However, the Quakers turned it into another quality year for a rich and storied program.

Penn went 10-4 in the regular season and 4-2 in the Ivy League. The Quakers notched quality wins over the likes of Rutgers, Duke and North Carolina.

The Quakers opened their season by traveling to North Broad Street to take part in the Temple Open on Nov. 6. Abby Emerson finished first in the foil, which was a sign of things to come for the freshman. In the saber, fellow freshman Cassandra Partyka placed ninth. Penn’s strongest finish came in the foil, as juniors Zoya Abdikulova and Eve Overton finished third and 10th, respectively.

After a two and a half month lay off, the Red and Blue hosted the two-day Philadelphia Invitational Multi-Meet on Jan. 21-22. Penn had a successful weekend going 5-1 beating Temple, Drew, Rutgers, Duke and North Carolina. Returning All-America Holly Buechel led the way on Saturday, going 11-1 in the epee. Weapon mate Kristen Hughes had an impressive showing, going 10-1.

On Sunday, the Quakers continued to build on the momentum they had from Saturday. Penn easily defeated North Carolina (19-8) and Rutgers (24-3). In the Red and Blue’s defeat of the Tar Heels, Partyka, Buechel and Ilana Sinkin combined to go 9-0. Penn shut out Rutgers in the foil and epee. Abdikulova and Emerson combined for six wins in the foil, while Ana Gutierrez-Colina, Hughes and Buechel tallied all nine wins in the epee.

A week later, the Quakers traveled to the Penn State Invitational, where they defeated Haverford 23-4 but dropped bouts to No. 2 Penn State 17-10 and No. 6 St. John’s 18-9. Pennhad an impressive showing against Haverford. The Red and Blue had 7-2 wins in the saber and epee and a 9-0 win in the foil. Sinkin, Abdikulova, Emerson and Overton combined for Penn’s nine wins in thefoil.

With the preseason finished, Penn embarked on its Ivy League slate for the first two Sundays in February. Up first was a trip to Ithaca, N.Y. for the Ivy Championship North. The Quakers went 2-1, routing Yale, 21-6, and then pulling out a 16-11 win over Princeton before being dealt a 15-11 loss to Columbia.

The Quakers cruised past Yale in all three weapons. In the epee, the Red and Blue won 8-1. Buechel and Hughes each picked up three wins. Penn won the foil 6-3. Abdikulova, Emerson and Sinkin all went 2-1. The Quakers took the saber 7-2, led by captain Katelyn Sherry, who was returning from a foot injury. She went 3-0.

After losing to the Lions, Penn bounced back against Princeton. Their 6-3 win in the epee was led once again by Buechel, who was 2-1 against Princeton. The Tigers edged Penn in the foil 5-4. Emerson went 2-1 for the Red and Blue. Penn was very impressive in the saber,shutting out Princeton 9-0. Sherry, Frey and Partyka combined for the Quakers’ nine wins.

The following Sunday, the Red and Blue encountered nearly 27 inches of snow on their way to Columbia for the Ivy Championship South. Once they got settled in, the Quakers dominated Cornell and Brown, beating both 21-6. Penn’s only setback came against eventual national champion Harvard in a 16-11 loss.

In both wins, Sherry went a perfect 6-0. The foil team shut out the Bears, 9-0, thanks to Abdikulova, Emerson. Sinkin and Overton, who combined for the Quakers’ nine wins.

Despite losing to the Crimson, Penn gave them all they could handle in the foil and epee. The Quakers fell 5-4 in the foil. Abdikulova and Emerson each picked up two wins. Harvard also won the epee 5-4. Hughes and Buechel combined for four wins. Penn finished the Ancient Eight schedule 4-2 and in third place.

The Red and Blue earned three All-Ivy selections. Buechel earned her third first-team selection. She tied with Brown’s Ruth Schneider for the second-best record in the epee at 13-5. Sherry rebounded from a foot injury to earn second-team after stringing together 12 straight victories. Joining Sherry on second-team was Emerson. The freshman went 13-5 in the foil.

After a good run through in the regular season it was time for the Quakers to focus on the post-season. The first event was the IFA Championships held at Hutchinson Gym on Feb. 26.

Penn totaled 72 victories in the 3-Weapon Team Competition and finished third behind Harvard and Columbia. The Quakers’ 72 victories were good enough to help Penn take second to the Crimson in the 6-Weapon Team Competition.

The foil team finished second for the Red and Blue’s highest finish. Overton led the way with 10 victories, while Emerson and Abdikulova each took nine.

The saber team tied Columbia with 25 wins, but finished third after the tie-breaker. Partyka finished fourth in the A Division with seven victories. In the B Division, Sherry picked up 10 wins, which was good for second place. Frey placed third in the C Division with eight victories.

In the epee, Guiterrez-Colina, Buechel and Hughes combined for 19 victories and a fourth-place finish.

Penn continued to find success in the individual competition, as well. Buechel took home the Gold Medal in the Individual Women’s Epee competition. Sherry finished second in the saber and won the Silver Medal, and Abdikulova placed fourth in the foil.

At the conclusion of the day, Sherry was voted by her peers as the recipient of the Georges L. Cointe Award. It is given to a fencer at the IFA Championships who best demonstrates the qualities of sportsmanship.

One week later, on March 5, the Quakers sent nine fencers to the NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regional at Duke University. Penn had an impressive showing, as six of those nine had top-10 finishes.

Three of those top-10 finishes came in the foil. Sinkin, who was the No.12 seed, finished second. Fellow rookie Emerson placed sixth, while Overton was ninth and Abdikulova 11th.

Buechel led the epee with a fifth-place finish. Penn’s other two competitors were freshman Gutierrez-Colina, who placed 12th, and Hughes who came in 20th.

Partyka and Frey were Penn’s only two competitors in the saber and both finished in the top-10. Partyka took fourth and Frey was 10th.

Buechel, Emerson, Partyka and Sinkin headed to the NCAA Championships in Houston, March 16-17 for a chance at national prominence.

Emerson and Sinkin led the Red and Blue over the two-day event, combining for 25 victories. Emerson finished the competition in ninth place and Sinkin took 15th. Emerson earned honorable mention All-America status for her performance.

Buechel finished in 21st place in the epee with six victories over the two-day event. Partyka picked up four victories and finished in 23rd place.

Penn finished the competition in 11th place with 35 victories in two days.

With four NCAA Championship qualifiers, three of whom were freshmen, three All-Ivy selections and a No. 7 final ranking, the Penn fencing program had another successful season in 2006. With the prospects of losing no seniors to graduation and returning a number of underclassmen that gained invaluable experience, 2007 should be another spectacular season.