Women's Fencing Begins Team Competition at Vassar

PHILADELPHIA - The women's fencing team travels to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. on Saturday to begin the team portion of its 2012-13 season. Penn will take on five opponents at the Vassar Invitational, with the day culminating in a big intra-city rivalry bout against Temple.

The competition begins with an 11 a.m. matchup against North Carolina. Penn downed the Tar Heels 15-12 last season at the Penn State Invitational thanks in large part to a 9-0 edge in foil. At 12 p.m., the Quakers will meet the host Vassar Brewers.

Following a lunch break, the Red and Blue return to action at 2:30 p.m. for the first of three consecutive bouts. The Quakers begin their busy afternoon against Sacred Heart. Penn snuck past the Pioneers at last season's Philadelphia Invitational, 15-12. At 3:30, the Red and Blue will match up with NYU, who they defeated rather easily a year ago, 22-5. The day will end at 4:30 against Temple, affording Penn a chance to make up for a 14-13 defeat from last season. Luona Wang and Amrit Bhinder each went 3-0 against the Owls at last year's Penn State Invitational, but a 6-3 defeat in sabre proved to be Penn's undoing.

Head Coach Andy Ma will have three of last season's four NCAA qualifiers back in the mix this season, led by Wang, the national runner-up in foil last year as just a freshman. After her first-team All-American season, Wang began this season by winning the foil competition at the Garret Open, the first Penn foilist to do so since 1979. Joining her on the foil squad is another sophomore, Sarah Parmacek, who also qualified for the NCAA Championships. Her 11 wins at the national competition left her just short of being named an All-American, but she does have a second-team All-Ivy nod to her credit after one season in the Red and Blue. Wendy Zhao and Rachel Chin join those two to form Penn's strongest weapon group.

The other NCAA qualifier that returns for the Quakers is Bhinder in epee. A model of consistency in her time at Penn, Bhinder has three times put together regular seasons with at least 30 victories, three times been named second-team All-Ivy, and twice earned All-American status at the NCAA Championships. Last season she won 12 bouts at the Championships to earn honorable mention. Gabby Foor fell short of making NCAAs as a sophomore after qualifying as a freshman, but actually led the epee group in the regular season with 32 wins. Lisa Dawes and Corey Novich also return to the fold, and are joined by two freshmen, Srey Beaulac and Sara Jones.

Penn's sabre team is a question mark entering the season. Last year's top two performers graduated, leaving three sophomores and one freshman to pick up the slack. Laura Barger had 19 wins last year to lead the returners, while Susan Contess and Krystyna Golden had 11 apiece. Tiffany Chan comes in after competing on the Hong Kong national team for each of the past two years.

After Saturday's bouts, Penn will have over a month off before they take to the strips again. The Quakers are next in action on Jan. 12 at the Penn State Invitational.