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    Korea 2014: A Trip to Remember

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    This year's trip to the Korea University Fencing Invitational (KUEFI) was definitely a memorable one. From the intense fencing to the venturous exploring, Charlotte Sands, Stephanie Chan, Julia Abelsky, Cindy Oh, and I shared a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

    Taking place in Suwon, South Korea, the KUEFI tournament hosted student-athletes from universities all over the United States, including Stanford, Notre Dame, Harvard, Brown, etc. The theme of the entire competition was to showcase collegiate fencers' ability to balance both the athletic and academic aspects of their lives while simultaneously preparing for a successful career. Whereas the American student-athletes are able to maintain a balance between athletics and academics, the Korean fencers devote a significant amount of their time to solely athletics. Balance, time-management, and organization are the qualities the Korean fencers sought to learn from their American counterparts.

    The first day of competition proved successful for the Wildcats, specifically rising sophomores Cindy Oh and Julia Abelsky. Even after a tough first round, the duo was able to pull through in the direct elimination round and tie for  third in the women's sabre event. Over in the women's foil event, myself, Charlotte Sands, and Stephanie Chan faced faced a tough group of Korean competitors. Placing 9th, 18th, and 21st, respectively, we each realized that we need to both increase and improve our footwork drills if we want to match the pristine footwork of the Korean fencers.

    The talent of the Northwestern fencing team, both athletically and academically, was truly showcased on the third day of competition. Having placed as the highest American finishers of the individual event two days prior, Cindy and I were selected to compete in the USA vs. Korea team event. The media coverage was the most I have ever witnessed for a fencing competition, which shows just how much the sport of fencing is growing. After a hard-fought battle, the women's American team fell short by just two touches, losing 15-13 to Korea. In addition to representing Northwestern through her amazing finish in the individual event, Julia Abelsky was asked to give a speech on her experience as a student-athlete by the organizers of the competition. A Korean newspaper even wrote an article on Abelsky, highlighting her ability to succeed both on and off the strip.

    The week-long trip also included adventurous trips to Seoul, the country's capital, where we roamed the busy streets of Gangnam. Stumbling upon underground shopping centers, Korean barbeque, and unique coffee shops, we were able to grasp a more clear understanding of the infamous "Gangnam Style" song. The organizers of KUEFI also granted us the opportunity to tour Samsung's headquarters, an absolutely huge facility that includes a hospital, soccer field, restaurants, hotels, and much more. We even got a private tour of the Samsung museum, where we were exposed to the past, present, and future of technology. Imagine a world where your remote control is obsolete and you can change the TV channel or adjust the volume by simply using your voice. Well, in Korea, they already do so.

    The trip concluded with a delicious team dinner where, to my horror, a bowl of bugs was served on the table as an appetizer. To no surprise, Stephanie Chan's chopsticks were the first, and only, utensils that dared to touch them.

    The Wildcats would like to thank the organizers of KUEFI whose efforts in accommodating the American competitors did not go unnoticed. This year's KUEFI was extremely well organized and we truly had an amazing time in Suwon.

    Thanks for reading & have a great summer! - Jen

    Catching Up with the 'Cats

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    Editor's Note: Cody Stevens, a current member of the Northwestern Wildcats, penned an update on how some recent alums of the program are doing in professional baseball.

    By Cody Stevens
    May 1, 2014

    J.A. Happ, a three-time, All-Big Ten First Team Pitcher, was drafted in the third round of the 2004 MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. It took him three years to get in his first Major League game, where he pitched for the Phillies. He bounced between Class AAA and the major league club until 2009 where he became a regular starter for the Phillies. He went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA and the Phillies went on to win a World Series ring in the fall. He was traded to the Houston Astros the next year and then to the Toronto Blue Jays two years later. He is currently a valuable part of the Blue Jays bullpen.

     

    George Kontos was drafted in 2006 by the New York Yankees is now playing for the Class AAA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. He has a 4.32 ERA in 16.1 innings pitched with a staggering 25-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. He has spent significant time in the Majors with the Giants and Yankees over his career. In the past two years with the Giants, Kontos has had a 3.55 ERA with 91 strikeouts in 99 innings. He was also a part of the postseason roster for the Giants in 2012 when they won the World Series.

     

    Bo Schultz, who was signed by the Oakland Athletics in 2008, is now pitching for the Reno Aces, the Class AAA affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has five starts on the year with two wins and two losses and a 2.90 ERA. Schultz has 22 strikeouts in 31 innings pitched. The right-hander was called up to the Diamondbacks big league roster to make the trip to Sydney, Australia for Major League Baseball's opening series, While he was down under, he threw one inning where he did not give up a hit or walk. Bo's path was not an easy one, when he was released by Oakland in 2011 he signed to play Independent League baseball for the rest of the season. That opportunity got him another chance, with the Diamondbacks signing him for the 2012 season.

     

    Jake Goebbert was drafted in the 13th Round of the 2009 MLB Draft, by the Houston Astros. In 2012 he was traded to the Oakland Athletics where he would hit .262 in the minors. This year, Goebbert received an invite to Spring Training where he got several at-bats. He ultimately did not make the A's Opening Day roster, but he is now hitting .303 with four Home Runs in 21 games for the Class AAA Sacramento River Cats.

     

    Eric Jokisch was drafted in the 39th round out of high school but decided to attend Northwestern. After a stellar career in Evanston, he was drafted again in 2010 by the Chicago Cubs in the 11th round. He has moved up the Minor Leagues fairly quickly where he hasn't stayed in one level for more then a year and a half. On August 6, 2013, Jokisch threw a no-hitter as a member of the Class AA Tennessee Smokies. After spending much of Spring Training with the Cubs major leaguers, he now is in Class AAA Iowa where he has two wins and 1 loss with a 3.48 ERA to go along with 26 strikeouts in 31 innings.


    Geoff Rowan heard his name called in 2012 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 39th round. He saw his playing time greatly increase in 2013 where he played in 22 games with 11 hits. He also was named the proud winner of the Erik Walker Community Champion Award, which recognizes a Rays minor league player who shows teamwork, sportsmanship, and community involvement.

               

    Zach Morton, a 2013 graduate, was drafted in the 32nd round by the Houston Astros last June. He started in short-season A ball where he had a 1.93 ERA, but was then moved up to Class A where his ERA lowered to 1.45. He helped the Quad Cities River Bandits win the Midwest league championship last year and now is in the bullpen there once again. Morton has a 1.88 ERA in 14.1 innings with 10 Strikeouts.


    Luke Farrell, after a great 2013 season, was selected in the 6th round of the MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. He was hampered by an injury late in 2013 that effected his stats, but the Royals have enough confidence in him to move him to Class A in 2014. For the Lexington Legends of the South Atlantic League, Farrell has posted a 7.5 Strikeouts for every nine innings he has pitched.

     

    Trevor Stevens was signed by the Chicago Cubs after his final season at NU in 2013. He went on to the Cubs Rookie League team where he hit .257 in 26 games. In 2014, he has yet to make an appearance because of a hand injury he suffered during spring training.

    Midwest Fencing Conference Championships

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    If I were to pick one word that accurately sums up our weekend at the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships (March 1-2), it would be pride.

    From the "N" on our masks to the purple tattoos on our faces, we represented Northwestern athletics in an honorable and gratifying manner. When senior Dina Bazarbayeva won gold and claimed the individual championship, I could not have been more proud. In an intense final bout, she was down 13-9 to a fencer from Notre Dame. Remaining calm, Dina strategized and rallied for six remarkable points in a row to win, 15-13.

    Dina has not only been an impeccable captain, but an extremely motivating and inspirational contributor to our team this year as well. Her determined, stringent work ethic translated easily to the strip as she has accomplished an impressive 53-13 record. In addition to Dina's undisputable talent, her leadership and solicitousness for the underclassmen truly have had positive and impactful effects.

    Our twelve freshmen also represent the strong sense of pride I leave MFC's with. I've watched them grow from their first sprints on North beach to claiming victories for the Wildcats in high-pressure situations. I think I can speak for the rest of the team when I say that the freshmen have played a huge role in our successes this season. They performed even bigger than we could have ever expected.

    Overall as a team, we did not place as high as we hoped. But knowing that we left everything we had out on the strip, we are proud to have earned third place overall. From what I experienced this weekend, I can tell that each of us learned of an aspect of our own games to improve upon. With our last week of practice before the NCAA Midwest Regional in Detroit, Michigan we intend on making the most of our time on the strip with hard-work, perseverance, and most of all, pride.

    Thanks for reading and as always, Go 'Cats! - Jen

    P.S.: I'd like to give a very special and important shout-out to our absolutely phenomenal athletic trainer, Erica Kendrick, who has helped us all through a plethora of injuries this season. We couldn't have done it without you!

    DeCicco Duals Recap

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    This past weekend Northwestern Fencing headed over to South Bend, Indiana for the DeCiccio Duals, our last dual meet of the season.

     

    The morning began with a tough match against Ohio State. A strong finish came from the epée squad, consisting of Juliana Barrett, Mandeep Bhinder, Christina Allen, and Kaitlyn Wallace, who won five of their nine overall bouts. Even with the absence of senior Dina Bazarbayeva and junior Courtney Dumas, who were abroad for the weekend and competing in a World Cup, the underclassmen successfully stepped up. By the end of the match, we realized that many of our losses were by just one touch, revealing that this is a strategy we will have to work at even harder in practice.

     

    The next match was against Notre Dame, who we have already fenced many times this year. This time the sabre squad pulled off a 5-4 victory with freshmen Ania Parzecki and Cindy Oh winning two bouts each. After battling it out against the Fighting Irish on their home turf, we ultimately fell 20-7.

     

    The third round proceeded with a match against Penn State, a team we have yet to compete against this season. It was refreshing to compete against fencers we have not seen since the Duke Duals of last year. Although we lost a close match, 16-11, the epée squad showed dominance again by winning their bouts 6-3.

     

    The second half of the day looked brighter as we posted victories against Cleveland State, Detroit, and Wayne State. One benefit of the DeCiccio Duals is that we are able to focus our attention on Ohio State and Notre Dame, who we will be competing against in the upcoming Midwest Fencing Conference Championships on March 1-2 in South Bend. This allows us to analyze our mistakes against specific opponents, leaving room for correction out on the strip in a few weeks.

     

    The weekend, although short, proved to be valuable in that we each walked away with a lesson learned and increased motivation to push for victory in a few weeks.

     

    I want to give a special shoutout to Justin Blatner, our Sports Performance coach, who traveled with us this weekend. He was a great supporter for the Wildcats and became a lot more familiar with the sport of fencing.

     

    Go 'Cats - Jen

    Catching Up with the 'Cats

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    Hello Wildcats!

    The past few weeks have been filled with practices, meets, flights, and road trips as we continue on through our competitive season. In this week's blog I'll cover our meets at Virginia Beach, New York City, Philly, and our home duals here in Evanston over the weekend.

    January North American Cup - Virginia Beach, Va.

    The first trip since the last entry took place in Virginia Beach, where nine of my teammates competed in the January North American Cup. The wildcats, as expected, all finished with amazing results. Junior Courtney Dumas brought home a medal after finishing sixth in the Division I women's epee event. Freshman Mandeep Bhinder, also an epee fencer, took 17th place out of a solid field of 120 fencers in the junior women's epee competition. Other significant finishes came from freshmen Alisha Gomez-Shah, placing 17th in Division I women's saber, and Stephanie Chan who placed 22nd in junior women's foil. The freshmen continued to come in strong with Kayla Kelch taking 30th in junior women's foil and Kimmy Fishman placing 33rd in a tough Division I women's foil event. As promised, I've provided some sabre footage of freshman Alisha Gomez-Shah winning a thrilling bout against an Ohio State opponent 15-14. Overall it was a great weekend for Northwestern fencing out on the East Coast!

    NYU and Philly Invitationals

    Following the North American Cup, we reunited in Patten Gymnasium and intensively prepared for one of the toughest weekends of the season: the NYU and Penn Invitationals. This is always one of my favorite meets because we compete against some of the highest-ranked teams in the country. Not to mention we get to eat dinner at some of my teammates' houses. After flying into New York, we went straight to the Goldstein residence where junior Mary Spohn and I continued our annual tradition of devouring Napoleon cake like it's the last chance we will ever have to eat again. The next night, we had dinner at Charlotte Sands' house. The home-cooked meal was absolutely delicious, and I am still drooling about Charlotte's dad's brisket.

    We began the weekend at NYU where we competed against Columbia, Yale, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Wayne State, and NYU. After a long day of competition, we went 3-3, improving our record to 19-3 for the season. By 8:00 that evening we were on our way to Penn for the Philadelphia Invitational. While there, we defeated Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Sacred Heart, and Penn. The match against Penn was both exciting and nerve-wracking, as it came down to the final touch. Freshman Mandeep Bhinder was able to pull away a win in a suspenseful priority bout, giving us the 14-13 win against Penn. Her celebration of unexpected jumps and screams were almost as good as the win itself.

    Our one loss for the day was against Temple, where many of the deciding bouts were lost by just one touch. As a result, we've been drilling these types of bouts during practice. We replicated the scenario by making the score tied, adding pressure to get that final touch towards victory. We returned from this trip with many lessons learned and increased motivation to beat them next time.

    NU Duals and Dina Day

    The next weekend we were back at home for the Northwestern Duals, where we would compete against ten schools from around the country. Before the fencing began, we recognized our lone senior and captain, Dina Bazarbayeva. We honored her success and contributions with flowers and blown up pictures of Dina's face (see below). Once the ceremony was over, we opened the day with a match against UC San Diego. Closing them out with an 18-9 victory, we moved on to a rematch against Temple, who we lost to the weekend before.

    With the help of packed stands and the hunger for revenge, we were able to beat Temple 17-10. Our focused drilling that worked to correct our mistakes against Temple the previous weekend clearly had a positive effect on our performance. The next match was against Penn, where we lost by just one close bout. Despite our loss, freshman sabre fencer Ania Parzecki was able to pull through with three wins.

    The first day of NU Duals concluded with wins against Duke, Cal Tech, and Tufts. The intensity heightened against Duke, as the sophomores, juniors, and senior on the team did not want to repeat our tough loss against them last season. Fortunately that was not the case, as we beat them 19-8. The next day, we competed against Farleigh Dickinson, North Carolina, Lawrence, and Princeton. Our only loss was against Princeton, who is currently ranked first in the country. With an 8-2 record for the weekend, we turn our focus to our next meet in South Bend for the Notre Dame Duals.

    Thanks for reading and as always, Go 'Cats! - Jen

    Fun In The Sun

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    Hello Wildcats!

     

    The 'Cats kicked off 2014 with an interesting first week of our winter quarter. As Wildcats, we weren't going to allow a few unexpected snow days caused by the sub-zero temperatures, lost fencing equipment at the airport, and stranded teammates in Europe (Hi Stella!) to stand in our way. This past weekend we left our scarves, gloves, and hats behind and flew to Palo Alto, California where we competed in the Western Invitational.


    This year, Stanford hosted the meet and invited us to compete in an exhibition match the night before the duals. On their home turf and in front of many fans, the 'Cats were able to come through with a convincing win. We defeated them 17-10 on Friday night and again Saturday morning by a final score of 18-9. After fencing Stanford on Saturday, we then defeated UC Davis, Caltech, Air Force, and Florida. We completed the weekend with a cumulative score of 113-22 and another Western Invitational championship title.


    We then celebrated our victory by taking advantage of the warm weather and sunshine. Upon returning to the hotel, we jumped into the pool without hesitation. Our competitiveness carried over from the strip to the water, where intense battles of "chicken" and freestyle races ensued. We concluded the weekend with a delicious, well-earned dinner where I witnessed freshman Stephanie Chan eat more than a pride of lions in the wild.


    The next few weekends are action-packed as we compete in the Virginia Beach North American Cup, NYU Invitational, Philly Invitational, and home our duals (Feb. 1-2) at the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion. Based on our performance in Palo Alto and our hard work at practice, I am more than confident we will come through with more big wins in the upcoming weeks.

     

    As always, Go 'Cats!

     

    Jen Yamin

    'Cats Take Cleveland

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    Editor's note: Rather than using the written word to chronicle Northwestern's trip to Cleveland, Ohio for the USA Fencing November North American Cup, Jen produced a video blog about the weekend. Below is her submission:

    'Cats Take Cleveland

    On to the Next One

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    It's my favorite time of year again. And in case you were wondering, I'm not referring to dressing up on Halloween, or my endless consumption of pumpkin spice lattes, but the adrenaline I feel on the strip during competition season. I think I can speak for every one of my teammates when I say that competing is what we live for. Finally, it's that time of year where we move from competition to competition, fighting for every touch and every victory, one bout at a time.

    This past weekend, we hosted the USFA Remenyik Open in honor of Northwestern's first head coach, Charlotte Remenyik. It was an exciting event with fencers coming from all around the country to battle it out for the gold medal. Overall, the 'Cats claimed two gold medals and 10 top-10 finishes. Congratulations to junior Courtney Dumas and freshman Alisha Gomez-Shah on securing those gold medals, or should I say battle-axes? (See below).

    Instead of trophies or medals, battle-axes were given to the top finishers of the competition. (I wasn't kidding).

    Preseason is officially over as individual competitions come to an end and our collegiate duals begin. My teammates and I are more than ready to switch from individual competition to team competition. Fencing is an individual sport, but collegiate fencing allows us to fence for more than just ourselves. It gives us the opportunity to flaunt our purple gear, represent Northwestern athletics with pride, and most importantly, win together.

    On Saturday, November 2nd, we're on to the next one as we compete against 11 Midwest Fencing Conference opponents at Patten Gymnasium. The team and I have been working extremely hard with lifts, conditioning, yoga, footwork, drills, and bouting. Our energy is through the roof this year, and I can't wait to see the freshmen experience their first collegiate-dual meet as Northwestern Wildcats. In social media news, make sure to check out Junior foil fencer Tina Umanskiy's twitter (@UtheMANskiy) for some deep thoughts, misused sarcasm, and overall comical entertainment.

    Happy Halloween and go 'Cats!
    Jen Yamin

    Technology Meets Fencing

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    Hello 'Cats!


    As we tackle midterms one exam at a time, we say goodbye to pre-season and enter the early season quadrant. Our next few weekends are stacked with both home and away competitions. The team and I are beyond excited to represent Northwestern and show the other schools what we are made of.

     

    A new addition to our practices this year has been the iPad. In the past we have used video cameras to record our meets and analyze the actions of our opponents. Now, we have the opportunity to video record our footwork, drills, and bouting at practices. The iPad is a great benefit because now we can easily identify what we need to work on at both the individual and team level. Having a visual aid during our practices is an extreme advantage, and we hope to continue to use it throughout the season. So thank you, iPad.

     

    Another form of technology that we've experimented with was the GoPro Camera. Junior foil captain Mary Spohn, after struggling with duct tape for several minutes, finally stabilized the camera inside her mask at a recent practice. The GoPro Camera allows us to view our fencing from a completely different angle. Rather than watch my fencing from the perspective of a bystander, I can now analyze my own actions from the perspective of my opponent. Unfortunately, placing the camera inside the mask didn't allow the clearest view of the action. But no need to worry, Mary plans on placing the camera on top of her mask during future practices. Hopefully I can post some awesome video footage here soon!

     

    Overall, our practices have been going extremely well and the energy we garnered at the beginning of the year is still going strong. This upcoming weekend we compete in the USFA (United States Fencing Association) Remenyik Open at the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion both on Saturday, October 26 and Sunday, October 27. The following weekend we host Club Duals in Patten. We'd love to see everyone out to support your fellow Wildcats!

     

    I want to give a special shout-out to the foil squad for such hard work and dedication this week. "We came in like a wrecking ball and can't stop!"

     

    Good luck on midterms everyone and until next time,

     

    Jen Yamin

    From the Sand to the Strip

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    Hello 'Cats!

     

    It's been a hectic first few weeks of school but it feels great to be on campus -- especially with our fourteen new freshmen! They are an amazing, motivated group of people who come from all over the United States and even Europe; and I could not be more excited to have each and every one of them on the team. I first met the freshmen during our team's "Beach Week", where we worked out together and got back in shape out on North Beach on campus. It was a great team-bonding experience and most definitely my favorite part of welcome week.

     

    After doing squat jumps, suicides, and sprints in the sand, we finally hit the strip for our first non-collegiate meet of the season. We held the United States Fencing Association Burton Open at the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion, and as usual, swept the medals. We earned gold medals in all three weapons and had 19 top-10 finishes. For those of you that don't know, there are three different weapons in fencing. Foil (the weapon I fence, and therefore the best one), epée, and sabre. There are different target areas for each one, meaning where a fencer can hit and score a touch varies for the differing weapons. There are a lot more differences among the weapons, but I think you would much rather witness the sport in person than read my lengthy explanation. So, next time we have a home meet, come out and support the 'Cats!

     

    All in all, the Burton Open was a solid warm-up for the upcoming season and a great opportunity for the freshmen to show us what they've got. As expected, they performed extremely well and I'm so glad they are now a part of the Wildcat family. It's going to be an exciting season, especially with all the positive energy they contribute to the team.

     

    Our next competition will take place later this month on October 26th and 27th at the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion. We'll be participating in the Remenyik Open as another warm-up before our first collegiate meet in November.

     

    Until next time,

     

    Jen Yamin