BURLINGTON, Ont. - The Queen's Gaels are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive OUA women's fencing titles since RMC accomplished the feat in 2005-08 when the OUA Championship begins this Saturday in Thames Hall Gym on the campus of Western University.
The Gaels won team gold in sabre a season ago as well as finishing third in foil and fourth in epee.
Lily Jiang (Edmonton, AB) is back once again for the Gaels and the third-year accounting major would not only like to bring home gold in the team sabre relay event but also strike gold individually after finishing in third last year. Also returning from the Gaels gold medal sabre team is Tiny Zhang (Ottawa, Ont.) who placed sixth at the 2015 championship.
As a rookie last year, Beatrice Cigagna (Tottenham, Ont.) finished eighth and was a member of the Gaels fourth place epee team. However, with many of the top finishers not returning to defend their medals, the second-year mining engineering major is a legitimate podium contender.
Queen's will be without Tiffany Chan, who finished third individually in foil last year, however, seventh-year veteran Nancy Chua (Edmonton, AB) hopes to fill that void. Chua finished fourth behind Chan at the last OUA championship.
If the Kay Aoyama Trophy isn't heading back to Kingston once again with the Gaels, it could be coming back to the "Limestone City" with their crosstown rivals, the RMC Paladins. At last year's championship, the Paladins earned a silver medal after finishing second in team epee and foil, as well as fifth in the team sabre event.
While Kalina Larocque and Deanna Gilmore have graduated, RMC will look to Cecily McDonnell (Newmarket, Ont.) and Victoria McCormick (Ottawa, Ont.) to guide them back to the podium this time around. Individually, McDonnell finished fifth in the epee a year ago while McCormick, a business administration major, placed 10th.
Fourth-year civil engineering major Chelsey Guo (Edmonton, AB) will look to improve upon her seventh place finish in foil at the 2015 OUA championship. Guo was a member of the silver medal winning foil team along with Chelsea St. Amand (Beachburg, Ont.). Earlier this season at the Carleton Invitational, St. Amand won bronze in the team foil event.
Julie Cho (Coquitlam, BC) and 2015 OUA all-star Mary Anne Iver (Toronto, Ont.) were members of the Paladin's silver medal winning sabre team at Carleton Invitational.
The Ravens enter the weekend looking to win their first OUA championship since 2010 and with several holdovers from their third place finish in 2015 this could very well be the Ravens year.
Carleton is led by Emese Dukai-Branscombe (Victoria, BC) who finished third last season. However, with the gold and silver medalists from a year ago not returning, the fourth-year public affairs and policy management student-athlete should be considered a strong contender for the top step of the podium on Saturday afternoon. Dukai-Branscombe, along with Sharon Schuppe (South Burlington, VT), was also a member of the Ravens' gold medal winning epee relay team last year.
While the Ravens did not compete in the foil team event at the 2015 OUA championship, Carleton did secure a third place finish in the team sabre relay. With the graduation of Adrienne Sukunda and Kristin Decellier, Mackenzie Veitch (Barrie, Ont.) is the lone holdover from that team.
Graduation was not kind to the Ravens this season as both Isabelle Gauthier and Adrienne Sukunda will not be at the championship to defend their individual epee and sabre titles.
The host Mustangs haven't hoisted the Kay Aoyama Trophy since 1993 and to do it at home would be a special moment for the Western student-athletes and coaches.
A season ago, the Mustangs were crowned women's foil champions for the first time since 1989 and with the majority of their gold medal team back in the fold, Western could find themselves on the top step of the podium once again.
Mary Lee (Thornhill, Ont.), Jessie Jue Wie Li (Toronto, Ont.) and Vivian Poon (Mississauga, Ont.) return in 2016 for the Mustangs, while Poon, a fourth-year BMOS major, will look to trade in her individual silver from last year for gold in foil.
Western's epee relay team remains intact from 2015 and Noura Hamade (Mississauga, Ont.), Huaiyuan Mu (Beijing, China) and Rachelle Li (Toronto, Ont.), along with the aforementioned Li, will look to improve upon their fifth place finish at the last OUA championship.
Former Varsity Blues standout and 2015 epee silver medalist Donna Vakalis has graduated, however, that won't stop their pursuit of the team's eleventh championship title in program history.
After a seventh place finish in epee a season ago, the Blues will look to second-year standout Sabrina Ge (Toronto, Ont.) to crack the podium this time around. With the four fencers that finished ahead of her not returning, the immunology/computer science major could very well bring home some hardware on Sunday.
As a team the Varsity Blues finished third in epee, fifth in foil and eight in sabre at the 2015 OUA championship.
If there is a team that's been hit harder with roster turnover than the Varsity Blues it would have to be their crosstown rivals, the Ryerson Rams.
The Rams finished fourth in foil, sixth in sabre and eight in epee at the OUA championship last year. However, Kristen Wavryk, Adeline Boey, Victoria Arci and Danielle Stepanian, all top 10 finishers in 2015, have graduated.
Fifth-year veteran Jessica Machado (Toronto, Ont.) will look to provide leadership to a young Rams roster that features eight rookies.
Of the Rams returning fencers, third-year creative industries student-athlete Marcena Lau (Markham, Ont.), was the Rams highest individual finisher last year, placed sixth in foil.
After a year abroad, 2013 and 2014 OUA individual foil champion standout Jennifer Ackerman (Saint John, NB) is back and looking to reclaim the Maître Ken Wood Trophy for the McMaster Marauders. Ackerman, who was a finalist for the Mel and Marilyn Hawkrigg Award for female rookie of the year in 2013, and earned the Dave O'Donnell Trophy for sportsmanship in 2014.
Ackerman also provides an instant boost to the Marauders foil relay team that finished sixth last year. McMaster is looking to win their first women's team foil title since 1974, the same year they captured their only OUA women's title in program history.
Katelyn Chan (Toronto, Ont.) is the lone holdover from the Marauders silver medal winning sabre relay team from the 2015 OUA championship. Chan, a fourth-year chemical engineering & bio-engineering major, finished seventh individually in the event last year.
The York Lions, who hosted last year's OUA championship, will travel to London, Ont. with top five aspirations.
Shadiya Aidid (Etobicoke, Ont.) and Ye Jin Jang (Etobicoke) will lead the pack as the Lions look to improve upon their finish last season. York finished fourth in the sabre team relay, however, eighth in foil and ninth in epee. While Kayla Lambie, who won silver in sabre, is not back for the Lions, My Van Loc (Mississauga, Ont.) who was on the fourth place team is.
At last year's championship, the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees finished sixth in the epee and tenth in the team sabre relay. However, with several holdovers from last year, the Gee-Gees could be a dark horse to find the podium this weekend.
Joelle Dufour (Gatineau, QC) and Ashley Tenn (Whitby, Ont.) were members of last year's epee team, while Erin Nguyen (Montreal, QC) and Roslin Sinclair (Oshawa, Ont.) are back once again, hoping to improve their sabre result. The Gee-Gees did not compete in the foil team relay at the 2015 OUA Championship.
The Brock Badgers, Guelph Gryphons and Trent Excalibur round out the competition.
The OUA Women's Fencing Championship begins with the individual events at 9:30am on Saturday, Feb. 20 and concludes on Sunday with the team relay competitions. Following the completion of the competition, the medal and banner presentations will begin between approximately 3:00pm-4:00pm
All events will take place at the Thames Hall Gym on the campus of Western University.