Filipino fencer Sam Catantan went undefeated in her much-awaited debut with Penn State University, winning all three matches as fencing competition finally started for schools in the US NCAA.
Catantan, the first Filipino “homegrown” fencer to be part of a US NCAA Division 1 school, played against Duke University and University of North Carolina Saturday, February 6 (Sunday, February 7 in Manila).
In three matches, she scored 5-1 in her opening match, then a perfect 5-0 in the second, and 5-1 in the third.
Catantan said prior to her opening game, she felt the pressure to deliver.
“I was really nervous before the match. There was pressure because I know the reason why Penn State got me here – to help them win,” Catantan, who turned 19 last Feb. 1, told the Manila Bulletin.
“After that, when I got my first win, I finally settled and thankfully – with the encouragement of my teammates and the coaches, I was able to win two more of my matches. But it was tough.”
The tournament serves as a preliminary round – with more coming as fencers try to earn points for them to advance in the regional meet that will happen across the US.
From there, the next step is the tournament proper for the US NCAA.
Catantan understands the importance of the initial tournaments, which is key for her to make it to the regional, and hopefully earn a spot in the main event set March 25 to 28 in Pennsylvania.
“That’s the goal, I hope to accomplish that. With the support and prayers of family and friends back home, I hope to make it to the tournament proper. I’m proud that I represent the Philippines in this journey,”
Catantan, a member of the national team, was recruited by Penn State in 2019 following her performance at the Junior World Fencing Championship in Poland where she made it to the “Sweet 16” of the tournament.
After she finalized her deal with the Nittany Lion, she followed that up and proved she is worthy of the offer with a gold medal performance in the Under-23 Asian tilt to become the first Filipino to win in the said event.
She capped 2019 with a bronze medal finish in the Southeast Asian Games the country hosted two years ago.