St. Catharines, Ont. – The Toronto Varsity Blues snapped a seven-year skid to claim the OUA Women’s Fencing title a year ago, but with several talented squads nipping at their heels to find similar success in St. Catharines, this year’s championship could be claimed by any number of talent-laden teams. And whether Toronto doubles down for their second straight banner or another program climbs the podium, Brock University will be the place to be to see the best fencers in the province dueling it out this weekend.
The Varsity Blues women’s fencing team is looking to defend their OUA championship in St. Catharines, but will do so without two of their top past competitors. Despite the loss of Donna Vakalis and Christie Lee, however, the team as a whole have stepped up this season.
In the foil event, 2017-18 OUA all-star, Siobhan Drysdale (London, Ont.) looks to build on her silver-medal performance at last year’s championship. This season, she placed second at the Western Open and just off the podium at the Brock Open; results that Drysdale and company hope spark a second straight foil team championship for the Blues.
Turning to the epee, Toronto is going to rely on sophomores Leanna Lui and Emily Principe (Sydney, Australia). Lui just missed the podium in last year’s provincial finale, while Principe, the second-year student-athlete, finished seventh. Similar to the foil, however, the Varsity Blues claimed team gold a year ago and will look to do so again after claiming the silver medal at the RMC in November. Another standout from that event, meanwhile, will aim to spark U of T’s sabre crew, as Rebecca Jeffrey (Muskoka, Ont.) will hope to translate her RMC Cup gold and Brock Open bronze into provincial success this weekend.
A second-place finish from a year ago has the Mustangs going for gold this year, but if they want to improve on last year’s result and claim the top prize, they’ll need to rely once again on Victoria Edwards (Point Edward, Ont.). The fifth-year sabre fencer made her mark in more ways than one a year ago, entering this year’s festivities as the reigning individual sabre winner, as well as the recipient of the Most Proficient Female Fencer award. Needless to say, her presence at the event makes the Mustangs an immediate contender. Western grabbed team gold in sabre and an epee team silver, but they’ll look to do that little bit more this time around to return to their golden form from 2016-17.
It may be more than 10 years since the RMC Paladins have seen the top of the women’s fencing podium, but they remain a top contender for the provincial prize, entering this year’s edition on the heels of a third-place finish in 2017-18. For the squad to not only remain on the podium, but climb even further, the likes of Haley Saulnier (Ottawa, Ont.) and Roxanne Cormier (Val Doucet, NB) must be among their key contributors, representing two of the more experienced fencers among the new faces in the fold.
The former won individual bronze a year ago as a second-year fencer, and this year, the sabre standout captains the team. She is looking to replicate her previous success on the piste; something she has done by example thus far to get the best out of her teammates. One such teammate is Cormier, and the soon-to-be graduate has a final chance to claim an OUA medal at this weekend’s finale. Only time will tell if that is the motivation she needs to defeat her fellow foilists, but certainly Cormier and the rest of the Paladins team will hope they turn that drive into victory against the OUA’s best.
McMaster is hoping that a pair of key contributors can help the team build on a middle-of-the-pack finish from a year ago, and certainly, they have the resumes to do so. Kyla Selmeczi (Peterborough, Ont.), the team’s reigning MVP, is the leader of the Marauders foil squad, and after a fifth-place finish last year, Selmeczi and company have multiple members that can contend for the podium this time around. Fiona Chen (Hamilton, Ont.) is another strong presence for the maroon machine, as the veteran serves as the leader for the sabre squad. Under the leadership of these two standouts, the Hamilton group will certainly have their hopes set on a podium finish in an event or two.
Carleton finished sixth a year ago, but backed by a pair of Masters students, they’ll have a podium finish on their minds when they make their way to St. Catharines. Sharon Schuppe (Burlington, Vermont) and Marion Agier (Montreal, Que.) are two to watch for the Ravens, as the black birds look to soar to heights they haven’t reached since their 2014 banner victory.
While plenty of this weekend’s competitors have taken home hardware over the years, the Ryerson Rams are looking to join the pack with a podium finish of their own this season. They have never cracked the top-three on the provincial stage; however, over the past couple of years, Ryerson has revamped their program with their sights set on improvement. This year, the Rams are fielding one of their strongest women’s teams to date, with one of their best and brightest taking centre stage. Natasha Kis-Toth will make her championship debut this weekend, but as the Brock Open winner and a former Canadian national team member, the first-year fencer certainly has the pedigree to make a banner season splash.
Trent is another squad without a women’s fencing banner to their name, but they too boast the talent to improve on last year’s result and build toward a strong showing in 2018-19. One of the keys to the Excalibur’s success is fourth-year fencer Ashley Hodgson (Guelph, Ont.). Hodgson has naturally taken to fencing and has posted impressive results for only her third year with the sport. She has been gaining momentum all season long and is hoping to carry it into this weekend’s finale. Fellow fourth-year Josephine Schryer (Mono, Ont.) is also looking to build on a strong season and will do so as the pillar of Trent’s sabre program. Schryer is hoping to bring that strength into her championship performance and set a new personal best in the process.
Also taking part in this weekend’s women’s fencing festivities are the Queen’s Gaels, who claimed bronze in team sabre, but fell just shy of the overall podium a year ago; the host Brock Badgers; the York Lions; the Ottawa Gee-Gees; and the Guelph Gryphons, all of whom will aim to improve on their most recent championship efforts to rise the ranks this time around.