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Fencing readies for critical weekend against Ivy foes

The men are confident, the women are optimistic.

The men's and women's fencing teams enter the last weekend of the regular season with clearcut goals in mind. The women must defeat Yale in order to come into a three-way tie for their first-ever Ivy title, while the men are looking for a win in order to remain in second place in the Ivy League.

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In order to do well, both teams need a cumulative effort from its fencers. No one can win this tournament on their own.

Team effort

"Everyone has to fence well," junior epee Marco Acerra said. "A win is a win, a loss is a loss. No one's bout counts for more than anyone else's."

The Tigers face Harvard, Yale and Duke Saturday, while Vassar and Yeshiva come to town Sunday. Princeton's focus will be on defeating Harvard and Yale.

The men's team will face a strong Harvard epee squad, while Yale's strength lies in the foil. The key to defeating the Crimson will be for the sabre and foil squads to fence well, thus removing the pressure from Princeton's epee squad.

Against Yale, the Tigers will count on the sabre and epee squads to shoulder most of the load.

"(Our foil squad) is training hard," senior foil Graham Brooks said. "We should be able to match them easily."

Strong finish

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The men see this as a redemption match and hope to end their regular season on a high note.

"We're putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to win," Acerra said. "We're very confident. We were competitive against Columbia, and these two teams are decidedly weaker."

The team is wary of being overconfident, but secure in the way it has been fencing. A good showing this weekend will serve as a springboard into the Intercollegiate Fencing Association Championships Feb. 28 and the NCAA tournament in March.

Final match

This will also be the seniors' last time to shine in front of a home crowd, as the postseason tournaments will take place away from Princeton.

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Even with a roster loaded with freshmen, the women's fencing team has continued to fence well despite the absence of junior Caitlin Rich, Princeton's former captain. Rich has gone abroad for the semester. The Tigers will rely on a strong effort from both the epee and foil squads.

"No one can pull the team by themselves," said sophomore foil Nicole Polanichka, the team's new captain.

The strong performances of freshmen epee Amanda Jones and epee Kristina Hurme at last weekend's Junior Olympics have given momentum to the rest of the team. Both Hurme and Jones posted top 10 finishes. The Tigers' romp over Cornell two weeks ago has also heightened their confidence as they enter one of the most important weekends of their season.

"After Cornell, we realized that (winning the Ivy League) is possible," Polanichka said. "It is not entirely an out of reach dream. If we don't lose our concentration and we fence like I've seen us fence in the past, nothing should stop us."

The women can also take comfort in the fact that their time will come – if not this weekend, then soon. With such a young and talented roster, Princeton is only going to improve.

"If we don't win this weekend, we won't be discouraged," Polan-ichka said. "Because we have lots of freshmen and sophomores, if it doesn't happen this year, it will happen next year."

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