Banner Season: Fencers prepare to perform on the piste during women’s championship weekend
Burlington, Ont. – Not only do the Toronto Varsity Blues enter this weekend as the five-time defending champions on the piste, but they will also serve as hosts for the latest banner season festivities. The powerhouse squad will welcome 12 other provincial squads to the Athletic Centre at the University of Toronto from February 10th to 11th for the 2024 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Women’s Fencing Championship, and will look to make it six consecutive titles therein for their already decorated program.
When: Saturday, February 10 to Sunday, February 11 | FULL SCHEDULE
Where: Athletic Centre (University of Toronto)
Participating Schools (13): Brock Badgers, Carleton Ravens, Guelph Gryphons, McMaster Marauders, Ottawa Gee-Gees, Queen’s Gaels, RMC Paladins, Toronto Varsity Blues (host), TMU Bold, Trent Excalibur, Waterloo Warriors, Western Mustangs, York Lions
Schedule / Results: HERE
Defending Champions: Toronto Varsity Blues
Student-Athletes to Watch:
Erika Dominguez, TMU Bold | Last year’s silver medalist in the foil discipline and an OUA champion the year prior to that, Dominguez enters the 2024 finale with a chip on her shoulder to prove that she belongs on the top of the podium once again. On a small contingent of TMU fencers, the medical physics major is the lone member of the Bold team with championship experience, and consequently, will be relied upon to lead her teammates this weekend.
Evangeline Dryburgh, Waterloo Warriors | The Warriors foil team is led by Dryburgh, who is the team’s top-performing student-athlete, who consistently stands out for her exceptional skills and leadership abilities. Her impressive performance on the piste has earned her multiple accolades, including two bronze medals at prestigious Ontario tournaments this season alone. Her talent, passion, and dedication have been pivotal in the success of the team and have been an inspiration to her teammates.
Sara Fellman, Brock Badgers | Fellman is a reliable and consistent part of the Badgers squad, who is looking to add a third piece of hardware to her previous banner season medals. In both the 2020 and 2022 festivities, the studio art major from Brooklyn, NY was able to achieve a podium finish, earning bronze at each event in the foil team relay, and will have her eyes on the prize once again this weekend.
Stephanie Leach, RMC | Having joined both the CISM and national military fencing programs, the Edmonton, Alta. native has competed at Canada Cups and Canadian Nationals to gain experience in women’s foil. Placing in the top four at last year’s OUA Championships, the third-year fencer is more determined than ever to reach the top of the podium, and as the captain of the Paladins team, Leach is looking to drive her squad to victory and fight for the top of the podium.
Sydney Lutz, Trent Excalibur | All the way from the west coast, Lutz brings experience and a strong track record to the Excalibur squad this weekend. The Calgary, Alta. native has had consistent showings in the lead up to the OUA Championship, finishing in the top five at multiple events – including fourth at the RMC Invitational and third at the Newmarket Challenge – and will look to carry that momentum into an improved result on her most recent championship performance (12th place).
Natalie Palmer, McMaster Marauders | Having only started fencing during her university career, Palmer has been impressive on the piste for the Marauders. The Missisauga, Ont. local finished in the top 10 at her first OUA Championships in 2022, and followed that up by moving up a few places last year. Throughout the season thus far, the kinesiology major has been able to medal at multiple tournaments, which should give the junior plenty of momentum heading into this weekend’s events.
Charlotte Reed, Queen’s Gaels | After beginning her fencing at Queen’s in 2019 as a rookie epeeist, Reed has worked hard over the past four years. Sthe mathematics and computer engineering student from Glengarry, Ont. even took home the most improved fencer award for the Gaels in 2022 and has since become the anchor of the Tricolour’s epée team. With excellent results at this season’s team tournaments in tow, Reed will be turning her attention to the podium this weekend.
Kaitlyn Root, Guelph Gryphons | Leading the Gryphon into the banner season battle, Root brings three years of experience with Guelph to the piste. Root has already proven herself among her teammates and conference peers, having served up the best individual result for her side at the 2023 OUA Championships, and she is hoping to help her squad level up this year.
Catherine Wu, Toronto Varsity Blues | Wu, like more of her Blues teammates, is well aware of what it takes to win an OUA banner, and she was a key contributor to the team’s success a year ago. Returning to the championship piste as the reigning individual and team relay gold medalist in foil, the Richmond Hill, Ont. product will once again aim to provide the host side with a true contender for top finishes.
Ava Zheng, Carleton Ravens | A younger competitor for the Ravens, Zheng made a quick name for herself in her first championship appearance in 2023. Taking home the Dave O’Donnell Trophy, along with individual gold and team silver in the epée, the second-year standout from Vaughan, Ont. is hoping for a similar surge up the leaderboard in her sophomore outing.
Storylines to Keep an Eye On:
The Brock Badgers will bring a team hungry for experience to the banner season festivities this weekend. The St. Catharines squad is in the midst of a rebuild, but as they look toward the future, they are hoping a solid showing at the University of Toronto will serving as a building block for years to come.
Building off the budding success of a young team, the Carleton Ravens are growing quickly. While the roster they bring is relatively young, they boast plenty of talent and hard work, which they hope will put them in medal contention. Stronger than ever, the Ravens enter the OUA Championship ready to go head-to-head with the best in the province and bring home a banner to the nation’s capital.
After an impressive sixth-place finish by McMaster a year ago, the Marauders are ready to move up the leaderboard and threaten for a spot on the podium at the 2024 finale. The maroon and grey have a balanced roster with experienced veterans and some talented rookies, all of whom will look to peak this weekend in Toronto. With some top tier individual performances last season and a fourth-place showing in the women’s sabre team relay, McMaster will eye their top finish in recent year’s to close out the OUA campaign.
Coming back to the OUA finale on the heels of a solid performance last time out, the Queen’s Gaels are feeling strong in their team events. Having won the overall team bronze in 2023, another podium finish is well within reach, with a mix of experienced and newer fencers shouldering the load this time around.
The RMC squad is in their second year of full season training post-pandemic, with a focus on rebuilding the program. The Paladins have many hard working, determined, and talented young military women, each looking to build a solid foundation for the future of RMC fencing. With no true fourth-year fencers until 2026, the young contingent are poised to gain experience, knowledge, and even challenge their conference competitors with some solid technical and tactical skills.
Success has been synonymous with the Varsity Blues program of late, and they will look to add their sixth consecutive banner to rafters this weekend. They will do so with a roster that knows how to win, including seven of the 12 Blues from three team relay gold medals a season ago. And as they also take on the role of hosts this weekend, a win on their home soil would be an even more special way to extend their winning streak to six.
The TMU program continues to progress in its rebuilt after the pandemic and this year, many new faces have fit right in and are eager to go above and beyond in both developing their own fencing and showcasing the sport to other women athletes. This year’s contingent at the OUA Championship will be small, but the expectation is to have one medalist and have the others earn valuable experience to come back more competitively in future years.
The Warriors have had a strong season so far, with multiple student-athletes achieving personal best performances. With a wide range of experience and talent, the foil team looks to defend their finish at last year’s OUA Championship to stay on the podium, while the sabre team aims to take home a spot in the top-three as well.
What They’re Saying:
“After returning to practices in September and attending tournaments throughout the fall and winter term, it is an exciting opportunity to return to the OUA Championship. Our team has faced a number of injuries and health changes in the past year, but I am so proud of our mindsets and the work we have done to continue showing up on piste.” - Mya George, Student-Athlete, McMaster Marauders
“I’m excited to see the outcome of the hard work we have done this season. It will be the culmination of the focus and effort of both our athletes and coaches.” – Tim Stang, Head Coach, Brock Badgers
“Last year the Queen’s women’s fencing team had a strong performance, particularly in the team events, and won the overall bronze. This year’s team features a mix of experienced fencers and rookies who have been training hard all season and they have their eyes on the podium once again.” Rodney Carter, Head Coach, Queen’s Gaels