Fabulous Fencers into play-off last four

Strong performances in the Foil and Épée put York women’s fencing firsts through to a last four match with Loughborough in the Northern Premier League play-offs

Photo: Peter Iveson

Photo: Peter Iveson


BUCS Northern Premier League Play-offs – Wednesday 24th February

It would be fair to say Loughborough University has a slightly better sporting reputation than York, and it certainly is not often that we see one of our teams competing on the same level as one of theirs. Yet York women’s fencing team will play Loughborough firsts in the last four of the Northern Premier League play-offs next month, as reward for beating Liverpool firsts today. Their epic season goes on and on.

After winning all of their games in the regular season York are required to win a five team play-off competition in order to progress to the Premier League. With three of the teams having byes to the next round, it was up to York and Liverpool to compete for the fourth spot.

With the overall score at 75-73 to York going into the last weapon, Épée, strong performances from Becky Ellis, Katharine Gracey and Louise Highton sealed a huge win for York. Highton, who is ranked 28th in the country for Épée, was particularly impressive, conceding just five points in her three bouts and sealing the victory with an impressive 6-2 win over Emily Jeanes in the last contest.

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York will now have to face Loughborough for a place in the Northern Premier League play-off final. They have won all of their BUCS League games this year. Photograph by Peter Iveson.

York suffered an early set back when Kate Horner had to withdraw due to a foot injury and struggled in the opening stages, losing the Sabre 45-30. Only Katherine Gracey was able to better her opponent’s score in the penultimate bout, when she won 6-5, but a 6-2 win for Liverpool’s charismatic Erica Hughes in the final match-up gave the away side a crucial early lead.

However York turned things around in the Foil, winning 45-28. Katharine Gracey was instrumental in the come back, playing excellently against Hannah Loryman and Jeanes before competing in a thrilling 5-5 final bout with Hughes. There was to be controversy however, as the volume of Gracey’s celebratory screams got louder so too did the frustration of her partner. During the handshake at the end of their bout Hughes mimicked Gracey, screaming in her face and causing a brief argument on the sidelines.

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The win was the perfect answer to the women’s 128-99 defeat in the BUCS cup to Oxford earlier in the month. Photograph by Peter Iveson.

All was resolved in time for the Épée which both teams considered their strongest weapon. However with Horner out of action York knew that they would have to work hard to keep their promotion hopes alive. The early bouts were close, the highlight being the second 4-8 contest between Ellis and Jeanes, but York soon moved in to a lead. When Gracey – who had noticeably checked her celebrations in this round – landed a beautiful hit on Loryman in the eighth bout to effectively seal the match she could not help but let out her trademark scream.

Captain Kat Chzhen said after the game that she was “very happy” with the performance: “ We did very well at Épée, we are better at the pointy weapons!” York will be underdogs against Loughborough but, in their current form, will feel like they have the skill and determination to beat anybody and go all the way to the Premier League.

York line-up: Kat Chzhen, Becky Ellis, Louise Highton, Katharine Gracey, Kate Horner
Liverpool line-up: Hannah Loryman, Emily Jeanes, Erica Hughes


  1. Kate Horner is a foilist by the way, and was never going to fence epee, so I doubt that would have made much difference for that weapon. Just so you know…

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  2. I know very little about fencing and can’t say it is something I’d ever watch. However, in contrast to previous years when I think the team hardly got a mention, they appear to pop up here and at the Yorker quite a lot these days and it is really impressive seeing how well they have done. It would be nice to see the fencers get the ‘team of the year’ award from the AU I think.

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