It’s only fitting that this weekend’s fencing national championship takes place in
San Antonio’s Freeman Coliseum, as Penn State faces a Texas-sized challenge.
Since the champion is crowned based on a point system, the Nittany Lions qualifying just 11
fencers (six men, five women) lands them behind the
8-ball, as fellow heavyweight
and favorite, Notre Dame
(No. 2 men, No. 1 women), qualified 12. Championships are rewarded based on the combined results of the men’s and women’s teams, as there are no gender-specific championships.
But, while the charge for the
Lions’ 13th national title
carries on through Sunday, the first two days could make all the difference.
“The men are going to set up the game for us and then we’re going to have to pick it up from there,” said women’s captain
Jessica Russo. “But fortunately we have such a strong guys’
team that [they can pad the
lead for us].”
Russo and the No. 6 women,
led by former national
Guzzi-Vincenti, will wrap up the weekend on Saturday and
Sunday, while the
higher-ranked men’s team will have a chance to jump out to
an early lead today and
Friday. While Russo pats the No. 1 men’s team on the back,
several key parts of the
men’s team expressed their
faith in the women.
“I think that we have a lot of
really strong women,”
junior David Willette said.
But Willette added that
the women do not have it
easy, and will have to overcome mental struggles more than anything.
“I think that it’ll be hard
for them to stay mentally stable given the fact that they go second, which is a little more stressful,” Willette said. “That, along with only having five people, could put more expectations or more pressure on you.”
Willette added that despite the challenge, he “definitely” thinks the women can help close the championship out with a win.
Willette co-pilots the men’s foil team with Olympian
Willette and Chamley-Watson, who boast a combined five All-America nods, finished first and second, respectively, in national championship qualifying.
What has led to the success of the foilists — including freshman Nobuo Bravo who finished third in qualifying — is a combination of things. Bravo, who had he fenced with any other program would have made the national championship given his third place finish, has no regrets.
“[Willette and Chamley-Watson] going one-and-two is
definitely expected and they should go one-and-two,
so I’m just happy that I went three,” said Bravo, who noted superior chemistry within the foil group. Fellow Olympians Gerek Meinhardt, of Notre Dame, and Alex Massialas, of Stanford, are expected to give the foil duo all it can handle.
But Chamley-Watson and
Willette each speculated on the possibility of facing off
against each other for the
individual foil championship.
“That’d be fun,”
Chamley-Watson said. “If it
was against David, it’d be fun
because we fence all the
time … I think it’s a good possibility.” Meanwhile Willette said the two would show no mercy against each other, if the title was to be decided in a one-on-one match.
ESPN3 will broadcast the individual championship matches beginning at about 2:45 p.m. on Friday and Sunday.
Hopefully for the Lions, they will be well represented in those championship matches.
“For me, all I think about is winning, so if we can’t win it all — then why do it?” asked Chamley-Watson. “I think we can definitely win as a team.”