The University of Toronto Varsity Blues women’s fencing team celebrate with the Kay Aoyama Trophy. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE VARSITY BLUES

The Varsity Blues women’s fencing team were crowned OUA champions last Sunday in Ottawa. The victory marked the team’s 11th overall championship, credited to the talented roster and coach Thomas Nguyen.

Sunday consisted of the team tournament. The tournament started with a pool system, which then led to a round-robin tournament, which is the opposite of an elimination tournament. After the round-robin portion ended, the tournament moved on to an elimination tournament. In the end, the Blues won a gold medal in the team relay for foil and épée, defeating the Queen’s Gaels. The Western Mustangs ended up winning the gold in the Sabre final, besting Toronto and giving them the silver.

The Blues finished with 360 total points in the overall team standings, beating out the second-place Mustangs by 68 points.

Three Varsity Blues players were selected as Foil All-Stars. Christie Lee, Siobhan Drysdale, and Jiahua Li were given the notable achievement. Players Donna Vakalis and Emily Principe were also selected as all-stars for the épée portion.

The recent success in the OUA tournament was a testament to the Varsity Blues program and the work ethic demanded from each and every athlete.

“We have three practices a week, usually between two to three hours. Our A-teams are usually expected to be at all three practices,” said fencer Sara Stonehouse when asked about the team’s work habits during the season.

“Our focus is usually on footwork drills, free fencing, and practicing certain scenarios to help mimic the tournament environment and atmosphere,” said Stonehouse. “We’re lucky to have such a large coaching staff who’s there to help us balance out everything we need to do to prepare for success.”

The relationships between the players have also been a factor to team success in the past few weeks. “Even though I’m a graduate student and a lot of our players are undergrads, I still feel like we’re really close and the ages don’t matter, especially when we’re fencing,” said Stonehouse.

Stonehouse, who is a graduate student currently in her first year with the Varsity Blues women’s fencing team, has praised the opportunities she receives playing on a varsity team.

“Tournaments are a really great opportunity to get to know each other, especially since the different weapons on our team tend to practice separately. Like this weekend, I roomed with an épée fencer who I didn’t really know before, but we got along and it was great.”

“Personally it’s just a lot of fun. The first time I played we saw a demo of all the weapons before we chose which one we wanted. For me, with Sabre it was kind of like love at first sight a little bit,” she noted.

Stonehouse knows that although fencing isn’t the most popular sport in the world, it’s definitely on the rise.

“Traditionally it’s been a lot bigger in Europe, but it’s been slowly growing in the US. So hopefully it spreads a little bit to Canada… and maybe we can see fencing on TV in North America at some point, that’d be really nice.”

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