Laurie Schiller is not only the most successful fencing coach in Northwestern history, but he is one of the most successful coaches that the sport has ever seen. With nearly 1,150 victories to his credit, Schiller has more wins than all but one other coach in the sport's history. Schiller was the second head coach to reach 1,000 wins in a career and he has guided the Wildcats to 14-consecutive top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships.
The 2012-13 campaign could be classified as another triumphant one for Northwestern. The Wildcats posted at least 30 victories for the ninth season in a row (38) as they marched their way to San Antonio, Texas, where a quartet led the program to another top-10 finish (9th). Three of the four fencers achieved All-America status, marking the first time since 2008 that at least three participants were recognized with the accolade.
Under Schiller, foilist Dayana Sarkisova joined Julia Földi, Christa French and Sam Nemecek as NU's only four-time All-Americans. Epéeist Dina Bazarbayeva earned national recognition for the second time in three years, while Courntey Dumas became the 14th different Wildcat to earn All-America honors under Schiller. The group has combined to win 31 such awards.
The Wildcats were as dynamic as ever in 2012 and the end result was another strong showing at the NCAA Championships in Columbus, Ohio. The shorthanded 'Cats rallied to a fourth-straight eighth-place finish in the women's competition and a third-straight 11th-place combined finish. Under Schiller's tutelage Kate Cavanaugh achieved First Team All-America status as she tied for third in the epée event. Cavanaugh became the fourth NU fencer to earn first team All-America honors under Schiller joining Sarkisova (2010), Kate Rudkin (2002) and Vivian Imaizumi (2000).
Northwestern also rose to the occasion for its best finish at the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships since 2007. The Wildcats finished in second place overall, aided by a gold medal in foil. Both the epée and sabre squads earned medals by winning the silver and bronze hardware, respectively. In the individual competition, Cavanaugh became the first fencer to win a gold medal (epée) since Alicia Gurrieri finished on top of the sabre event in 2010.
During the regular season Schiller reached another milestone with an important victory at the Northwestern Duals on February 4, 2012. By defeating Stevens Tech, 19-8, the longtime coach earned the 1,100th triumph of his storied career.
"I didn't talk to the team about it until after it happened because I didn't want them to think about it," said Schiller of his 1,100th career win. "I haven't really been thinking about it, but it is special."
During the 2010-11 campaign, a pair of Schiller's fencers earned All-American honors. Bazarbayeva turned in an impressive performance, finishing 14-9 to place sixth with that weapon and earn second-team All-America honors. Sarkisova achieved an identical record with foil, placing 10th to earn honorable mention All-America status.
On January 23, 2010, trailing fourth-ranked Columbia 12-8, his Wildcats rallied to take a 14-13 victory, giving Schiller his 1,000th career victory.
"It was an extraordinarily exciting comeback and it just seemed fitting," said Schiller of the 1,000th victory. "It was an unbelievable victory and started out what turned out to be a good day for the team. We beat two ranked teams and everyone performed well, so all in all, it was a good day for us."
Schiller became just the second fencing coach in NCAA history to reach the 1,000-victory club, joining North Carolina's Ron Miller. It even earned him some national recognition as Schiller appeared in the February 15 issue of Sports Illustrated, appearing in the magazine's "Faces in the Crowd" section.
The come-from-behind victory also kick-started what proved to be one of the most memorable seasons in Northwestern history as the Wildcats posted a program-record 45 victories on the year, finishing with a 45-4 mark. That year he led Northwestern to its sixth-consecutive 30-win season and was named the Midwest Fencing Conference's Coach of the Year for the sixth time in nine years. Schiller currently serves as the conference's commissioner.
A number of Wildcat fencers attained some impressive individual feats during the course of the 2009-10 season on Schiller's watch. As a freshman, Sarkisova placed third at the NCAA Championships, becoming the fourth Northwestern fencer and first foilist to be named a first team All-American. French, a senior, placed 10th to be named honorable mention as she finished her career as a four-time All-American.
In addition, Gurrieri finished first at the Midwest Conference Championships, winning the gold medal among the women's sabre. Gurrieri became the ninth Wildcat to capture the conference's individual title under Schiller and the third among the sabre. Northwestern also had a pair of runner-up finishers at the 2010 NCAA Midwest Regional, which was held at the Sports and Aquatic Center in Evanston, in Kayley French (epée) and Devynn Patterson (foil).
Known as one of the top fencing coaches in the country, Schiller has garnered national recognition throughout his career. In 1998 and most recently 2004, he was voted USFC A Collegiate Coach of the Year. Schiller was also recently named to the NCAA Fencing Committee, consisting of eight head coaches from across the country.
Schiller added another chapter to his successes after earning a fencing masters from the United States Fencing Coaches' Association (USFCA) in August 2002 and currently serves as the Association's Midwest Vice President.
The USFCA is a national academy of the Academie d'Armes Internationale (AAI), the world organization of fencing masters. The diplomas awarded through the USFCA are recognized by the AAI and its member national academies throughout the world.
The fencing master, the highest level of accreditation, requires an exhaustive practical and oral examination, given by a board of USFCA fencing masters, as well as a written thesis.
"It took me a long time to do it, but I'm glad I finally did it," said Schiller. "It was nice to prove to myself that I could do it."
For 17 years, Schiller served as the head coach of both the men's and women's programs, posting a 257-176 record with the men's team until the program was dissolved in 1994. His record as women's coach is even more impressive, at 892-261 (.774). His women's teams have experienced incredible success over the years, finishing with winning records in all but one of his 36 seasons, and eclipsing the 30-win mark 11 times, including each of the last nine years. The Wildcats have topped 20 wins in 22 of the last 43 years and have a 518-79 (.868) record since the beginning of the 1997-98 season.
Schiller has coached just under 90 percent of the matches in school history (1,623 of 1,812), a stretch which includes 16 seasons as men's head coach prior to the program's move to club status following the 1993-94 season.
One of the most respected fencing coaches in America, Schiller was named at the 1991 NCAA Championships to the all-decade team for the 1980s, comprised of fencers, coaches and administrators. He also serves as the Vice Chair of the USFA Illinois Division.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Schiller attended Rutgers University, where he was a three-year letterman and co-captain of the Scarlet Knights. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor's degree in African and Afro-American Studies. Schiller came to NU as a graduate student in 1972 and was awarded a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship in 1976. He received his doctorate in African History in 1982.
In addition to his coaching duties, Schiller has taught history at Northwestern. He recently had a book published by the Blue and Gray Education Society on the evolution of the Federal cavalry tactics in the Civil War.
Schiller resides in Deerfield, Ill., with his wife, Cathleen Weigley, who serves as the team's armorer.