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    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

    'Cats in Korea

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    Hi everyone! For those of you that don't know me yet, my name is Jen Yamin and I'm from Allendale, New Jersey. I'm a sophomore on the women's fencing team and I've been fencing since I was 11 years old. I decided to come to Northwestern because of its strong academics, supportive athletic community, the proximity to Chicago, and of course, the people here. With all of that in mind, I proudly present the first entry to the new fencing blog, Behind the Mask:

    Hello Wildcats!

    Writing to you from my bed after a casual 17-hour power nap, I have returned from Jeju Island, South Korea where my teammates and I participated in the Korea-USA Elite Fencing Invitational (KUEFI).

    Five fencers from universities across the United States were chosen to compete in the individual competition. From Northwestern, Cara Franke, Mikela Goldstein, Courtney Dumas, and myself traveled abroad to participate in such an exciting event. Unfortunately, our teammate Dina Bazarbayeva suffered an injury before the competition and was unable to travel. There were also fencers from Princeton, Brown, Stanford, Notre Dame, Columbia, and many more schools.

    'Cats in Korea

    Overall, the 'Cats performed pretty well considering the summer is our offseason. Fencing the Koreans was a tough, yet rewarding experience. Although their clean, precise styles were difficult to fence against, we still got the opportunity to test out different strategies at the highest level. Our best finish came from Courtney, who finished third in the women's epée event. Way to go, Court!

    Jeju is a beautiful, tropical island that has been named one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. After the competition was over, the competitors took advantage of the free-time to explore downtown Jeju. The streets were filled with so many shops, cafés, and restaurants that it was impossible to make it one block without stopping. The language barrier was sometimes an issue, and at one restaurant it led to a game of charades. One thing I did learn was that ordering chicken wings with hand gestures is a lot harder than you think.

    Jeju Island

    In addition to exploring downtown, we had the opportunity to hike on "Cultural Experience Day," arranged by the Korean organizers of the invitational. The sights were beautiful and the water was a perfect blue. After hiking in the sweltering heat, we took a taxi to Hyeopjae Beach and stampeded like wildebeests ran straight into the water.

    The organizers of the competition also held an "Education Through Athletics" Seminar, where the US coaches discussed balancing sports and academics. I was shocked to hear that in Korea, it is considered impossible for athletes to be academically strong students. In Korea, you are considered either a student or an athlete, but never a "student-athlete." One goal of the KUEFI event was to promote the "student-athlete model" and show the advantages of balancing the two. I think that after this seminar, the Korean students and teachers have a clearer understanding of the American collegiate athletic life. I wish the Korea International School students the best of luck as they continue on with their studies and sports!

    Go 'Cats!

    My trip to Korea was a culturally enriching and exciting trip. However, it feels great to be back in my own bed. I can't wait to be back on campus, and as always, Go 'Cats!

    - Jen Yamin