PHILADELPHIA - The Penn men's and women's fencing teams face a big test this weekend as they both travel to the NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regional held at Lafayette's Kamine Gymnasium on Saturday beginning at 8 a.m. A total of 11 men's teams and 13 women's teams will be at the event, and the Quakers will be trying to advance the maximum number of 12 fencers (six men and six women) to the NCAA Fencing Combined Men's and Women's Championship, held March 21-24 in San Antonio.
Besides the Penn teams - ranked No. 8 in the nation on the men's side and No. 10 in the women's poll - three other ranked teams will be competing in each event. The men's competition will feature No. 1 Penn State, No. 5 Princeton and No. 9 Duke, while the women's competition will see the Quakers matching up with No. 2 Princeton, No. 6 Penn State and No. 9 Temple at various points.
The men will bring 12 fencers to the event with four in each weapon group, while the women have 10 making the trip,one in sabre, four in foil and five in epee. Due to the postponement of the Ivy League Round-Robins in February, Penn will be forced to deal with a reduced strength factor for each of its fencers across the board. Princeton is in a similar situation. Though the Round-Robins were held last week, it was past the point of consideration in regards to this Regional. With only the individual winner of the six separate competitions guaranteed advancement to the NCAA Fencing Championships, it will put pressure on the Quakers to finish as high in each weapon as they can, in hopes of procuring multiple at-large selections against competitors who may have a better strength factor on the season.
The men's sabre squad is led by junior Michael Mills and senior captain Evan Prochniak. Mills has produced a team-best .878 winning percentage on the season (36-5), while Prochniak, a three-time All-American, is 34-13 this year. Sean Turner and Eliot Tusk round out the group, both in search of a first-time trip to the Fencing Championships. The women's team sends Krystyna Golden (18-31) to the strips.
While sabre is the biggest strength of the men's team, it's the foil team that leads the women's squad. Luona Wang was NCAA runner-up last season as a freshman and hopes to make the first step in a return trip on Saturday. Sarah Parmacek led the entire women's team with 48 wins this season, while Wendy Zhao and Rachel Chin round out a strong and balanced group. Men's foil is extremely young, with three of the four competing at the meet for the first time. Only Jason Chang, a sophomore, will have competed at this event before. Still, the talent is there, with Adam Elkassas (a team-high 38 wins in 2012-13), Chang (30-21 on the season), Ira Schlosberg (27-15) and Leland Bernstein (19-11) making the trip north to the Lehigh Valley.
The men's epee team returns a pair of NCAA qualifiers in Clifford Fishler and Rene Gannon-O'Gara. Gannon-O'Gara came on strong at the end of last season and became an honorable mention All-American. Freshman Ayyub Ibrahim led the team with a .690 winning percentage (29-13) during the season, while Joseph Isaac was also among this group of four with more than 20 wins in 2012-13. Two-time NCAA qualifier Amrit Bhinder will look to make it three in a row in her senior season with the women's epee team. She won nearly 70 percent of her bouts this season and will be joined by juniors Lisa Dawes and Gabby Foor, plus freshmen Srey Beaulac and Sara Jones.