BURLINGTON, Ont. – The Queen’s Gaels are chasing history as they get set to host the OUA Women’s Fencing Championship this weekend at the Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC).
Winners of three straight OUA championship titles, with a victory at home this weekend, it would be the second time in program history that the Gaels have won four straight OUA women’s fencing banners. Queen’s previously hoisted the Kay Aoyama Trophy in four consecutive years from 2001-2004.
The Gaels won team gold in foil a season ago as well as finished second in the women’s sabre team event.
Returning two of their three individual medalists from last year’s championship, the three-time defending champions have to be considered a strong favourite to find the top step of the podium on Sunday.
After claiming the silver medal in individual sabre in 2016, Gaels fourth-year veteran Lily Jiang (Edmonton, Alta.) has to like her chances of striking gold this weekend as the first and third-place finishers from last year are not returning to defend their hardware. After finishing third in the event in 2015, the pattern would suggest that this is the year she wins the Fred Wach Trophy.
Gaels foil specialist Jessie Pollett (Winnipeg, Man.) took the OUA fencing world by storm last year after she claimed silver as a rookie at last year’s championship. Queen’s finished in first and second in the event after Pollett was defeated by former teammate Mailys Rouganne in the final. However, Rouganne has graduated and in just her second season in OUA, the Winnipeg, Man. native has a great chance to capture gold and help Queen’s win their 10th title in program history.
Coming off a second place finish at last year’s event, there would be no sweeter feeling for the RMC Paladins than to break the streak in their crosstown rival’s facility. RMC finished just five points back of the gold medal winning Gaels in 2016.
As a team, the Paladins were the only team to medal in each of the disciplines, earning a silver in both foil and epee, as well as a bronze medal in the sabre event.
Making just her second OUA championship appearance, Paladins epee specialist Cecily McDonnell (Newmarket, Ont.) definitely made her presence felt as she left Western with a silver medal in the individual event.
The Paladins received a big boost this season as they welcomed back Marilyne Lafortune (St. Hyacinthe, QC), who is completing her Masters of Defence Studies at RMC. Lafortune led the Paladins to three consecutive titles from 2005-2007 and is a three-time individual gold medal winner in women's foil event. In 2007, the last year the Paladins claimed the overall team title, she was named the recipient of the Dave O'Donnell Trophy for Skill, Style and Sportsmanship.
Another Paladins fencer to keep an eye on this weekend is fourth-year veteran Mary Anne Iver (Toronto, Ont.). Iver has been named an OUA all-star in the sabre team event in each of the past two seasons. At the 2016 OUA Championship, Iver helped the Paladins earn a bronze medal.
After a third place finish at home last year, the Western Mustangs would like nothing more than to return the favour to the long-time rival Gaels.
Western hasn’t hoisted the Kay Aoyama Trophy since 1993 and like RMC, to upset the Gaels at home would be bittersweet. However, the Mustangs will be in tough as Western’s lone individual medalist from last year is no longer with the team.
At the 2016 OUA Championship, Vivan Poon (Mississauga, Ont.) led the Western women to a third place finish in foil and was named an OUA all-star in the process. Poon, now in her fifth-year studying BMOS at Western University, is hoping to return to the podium this time around after placing second in 2015.
The Mustangs are also the defending gold medalists in the women’s sabre team event.
The York Lions will be looking for a place on the podium come Sunday, however, they’ll have to do it without the services of second-year phenom Vanessa Lacas-Warrick (Markham, Ont). As a rookie last year, Lacas-Warrick won gold in the epee individual event and captured the Dr. Al English Trophy. However, the Markham, Ont. native won’t be defending her title this weekend as she’s currently overseas competing with the national team in Italy.
The Lions hope that newcomer Louisa Sparks (Epsom, UK.) can help fill the void left behind by Lacas-Warrick as York is the defending champions in the epee team event. Sparks, who previously fenced at Swansea University, will make her OUA debut this weekend at the championship.
Another Lion to watch this weekend is My Van Loc (Mississauga, Ont.) who is coming off a top five finish in the sabre events last year. Since then, the Lions team captain earned a bronze at a Canada Cup University event, silver at the Governer General's Invitational in Ottawa, and recently won a team gold at the RMC and Ryerson Invitational events.
A young University of Toronto Varsity Blues team will make the trip to Kingston this weekend in search of their first team title since 2011.
The Blues, who have won the Kay Aoyama Trophy 10 time in program history, will be led their year by second-year fencers Rebecca Jeffrey (Bracebridge, Ont.) and Siobhan Drysdale (London, Ont.). Jeffrey finished a eighth in the individual sabre event at last year’s OUA championship, while Drysdale recorded the Blues top result at the competition, finishing sixth in the individual foil.
Third-year neuroscience and physiology major Yena Lee (Toronto, Ont.) finished seventh at the 2016 OUA championship and will have her sight set on at least a top five finish in 2017.
After two straight podium finishes in 2014 and 2015, the Carleton Ravens soar into the 2017 OUA Championship with renewed optimism of medaling following a strong regular season.
Known particularly for their strength in epee, Carleton is the defending bronze medalist in the event after winning five of six team titles between 2010 and 2015. In the team epee events earlier this year, the Ravens finished first at the RMC Invitational before placing third at their own Carleton Invitational.
After leading Carleton to third place in the epee team event last year, Emese Dukai-Branscombe (Victoria, BC) was rewarded with OUA all-star honours. Returning this year, Dukai hopes to lead Carleton back to the podium in both the individual and team events. The Victoria, BC native missed the podium last year in the individual epee after winning bronze in 2015.
As the defending bronze medalist in the women’s epee individual event, fourth-year veteran Hanna Pass (Mississauga, Ont.) is likely the Brock Badgers best shot at medalling.
As a team, the Ryerson Rams are strongest in the foil as seniors Sukie Ma (Greenfield Park, Que.) and Marcena Lau (Markham, Ont.) will look to improve upon their seventh and 11th place finishes, respectively, from a year ago.
The McMaster Marauders, Trent Excalibur, Ottawa Gee-Gees and Guelph Gryphons round out the competition.
The OUA Women's Fencing Championship begins with the individual events at 9:00am on Saturday, Feb. 11 and concludes on Sunday with the team relay competitions. Following the completion of the competition, the medal and banner presentations will begin
All events will take place at the Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC) on the campus of Queen’s University.