Alumna fencing her way through NYU

March 10, 2020 — by Anouk Yeh

Ria Jobalia, a 2019 alumna, currently fences for New York University’s Division III team under head coach Steve Mormando.

At Saratoga High, Jobalia fenced at the Academy of Fencing Masters under the Maixomivch family for four years. At club fencing nationals in her junior year, Jobalia was able to meet with college scouts who showed interest in potentially recruiting her.

“[Later after we met], they got back to me to let me know if I was a strong enough fencer with good enough grades [to be] recruited,” she said. “NYU reached out to me and that ended up working out for me.”

Jobalia said that the biggest difference between collegiate and high school club fencing is the team aspect.

Unlike high school club fencing, where fencers only compete  for personal points and use one personal weapon, collegiate fencing uses combined team points and rotates between the foil, sabre and epee. 

Each team sends three competitors to fence each other in separate bouts using foils. The fencers are mixed and matched to compete in nine total bouts. This process repeats itself two more times with different weapons, the sabre and the epee, which Jobalia fences with, resulting in a 27-bout match. Fencers usually only fence with the type of weapon they specialize in and only fence opponents with the same type of weapon. The first team to win 14 bouts wins.

“There is a lot more team camaraderie in college compared to high school because we are fencing as a team rather than just fencing individually,” Jobalia said.

Along with the changes in competition structure come changes in training schedule and rigor. Jobalia said that so far, collegiate fencing has been less of a time commitment than high school club fencing.

When she was fencing in high school club, Jobalia would train five days a week – two times as much as the two to three training sessions a week in college. 

Jobalia also noted that the college fencing season is a lot shorter than the high school club season, causing tournaments to be more closely stacked together.

On a typical day as a collegiate fencer, Jobalia wakes up to go to class from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and goes to practice from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., then returns to her dorm to do homework.

When she has a tournament, Jobalia’s week is a lot more hectic. During tournament weeks, Jobalia and her teammates travel to different campuses in the Northeast, such as Princeton and Columbia to compete for a full weekend. The team typically leaves on a Friday night or Saturday morning and returns to campus late Sunday evening.

Jobalia said that the travel schedule during the tournament season, which runs from early November to mid March, can be very time consuming.

“On tournament weeks, the homework strain during the week is definitely felt much more strongly,” Jobalia said.

Despite the challenge of balancing school and fencing, Jobalia said that there are also perks.

“At times, it can be a bit difficult to make friends in college and fencing has proved to be an effective way to make friends,” she said. 

Outside of fencing, Jobalia, who is majoring in business, said that her classes at NYU are going swimmingly.

“Saratoga definitely sets you up for the rigor of college classes well,” she said. “I am enjoying my business classes and plan on studying abroad in London next semester and I am definitely excited about that!”

Jobalia said that she is planning on continuing to fence during her next three years in college. 

“I really enjoy the sport,” Jobalia said. “I am very glad that I have the opportunity to continue to pursue something I enjoy so much in a college environment.”