PHILADELPHIA - The announcement of the field for this year's NCAA Combined Men's and Women's Fencing Championships was made on Tuesday afternoon and the Penn men's and women's teams have advanced a total of nine representatives on to San Antonio. The NCAA Fencing Championships will be held from March 21-24 at the Freeman Coliseum. The men's team will have two fencers going in each weapon group, while the women have qualified two in women's epee and Luona Wang - a first-team All-America and national runner-up last season - in foil.
This year's schedule will have the men's team going first, fencing on March 21-22. With 24 participants from around the country in each weapon, all fencers will compete in 23 five-touch bouts. The top four finishers after the round-robin format will move into the semifinals. To ensure that both fencers are competing to their full ability, schools that have more than one qualifier in each weapon will have those two fencers meet in the first bout. For Penn, this means that senior Evan Prochniak will open with junior Michael Mills in sabre, freshman Leland Bernstein will face freshman Adam Elkassas in foil, and junior Clifford Fishler will begin with freshman Ayyub Ibrahim in epee. Of the six, five qualified based on the results from last weekend's NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regional. Only Elkassas was left waiting until yesterday's announcement to see if he would receive an at-large berth.
After the men complete their two-day event, the women will take center stage on March 23-24. Late-season injuries hurt Penn's chances of advancing a full squad, and only three Quakers will be competing over the weekend. In epee, senior and two-time All-American Amrit Bhinder will close out her collegiate career alongside junior Gabby Foor. In foil, Wang will try to improve on a performance that saw her finish as the national runner-up as a freshman, but it won't be easy. Last year's national champion - Evgeniya Kirpicheva of St. John's - returns, as do sisters Mona and Mai Shaito of Ohio State. Wang defeated Mona Shaito in a national semifinal in 2012.
Of the 25 schools that have advanced someone to the NCAA Championships, Penn's nine fencers are the ninth-most in the country. Both the men's championship rounds (Friday) and women's championship rounds (Sunday) will be broadcast live on ESPN3.