Feeding off of a healthy home crowd and facing some of fencing’s best, Duke pulled off two major upsets as both the men’s and women’s teams won four out of their five bouts.
The Duke Home Meet, held in Card Gymnasium and the season’s only meet in Durham, pitted the men’s and women’s squads against deep fields that each included Penn State and Notre Dame, both perennial fencing powerhouses.
Aside from dropping just one bout, the women also captured the epee and sabre trophies, awarded to the day’s best team in each weapon.
Saturday, the No. 10 men’s team defeated No. 2 Notre Dame 15-12 and added victories against North Carolina 18-9, Johns Hopkins 16-11 and Wayne State 18-9 to finish the day 4-1. The men’s only loss came at the hands of No. 1 Penn State, 21-6. The Nittany Lions went undefeated on the day and swept the weapon trophies.
Senior captain Anthony Lin, who won seven of his nine matches, said the strong turnout in Card Gymnasium had a noticeable effect during the Blue Devils’ victory against the Fighting Irish.
“To be out there representing your school and have the entire gym get fired up every time you get a point, it really invigorates our team,” Lin said. “I think we owe a lot of our Notre Dame upset to the fact that we had such a large crowd backing us up with every touch.”
The women’s team replicated the success of the men Sunday, dropping just one of their five bouts. The women notched a 16-11 upset against No. 5 Penn State and only fell 16-11 to top-ranked Notre Dame, which came away with the foil trophy. The Blue Devils also slipped by Northwestern 14-13, and easily handled both North Carolina and Wayne State 18-9.
“It speaks to the development of our program,” senior captain Emily D’Agostino said. “Beating teams that we haven’t before is just one of those things that really proves to us that all our hard work is paying off.”
D’Agostino led the Blue Devils’ strong showing with a 14-1 record Sunday. D’Agostino called the competition the strongest pool of teams that the Duke Home Meet has fielded in her four years at Duke.
“I think going into it there were a lot of nerves, but we tried to stay calm and feed off of the fact that we were at home,” D’Agostino said. “It worked out really well, and I’m really proud of us.”
In addition to Duke’s strong showing in the win column, the Blue Devils pointed to the success of the Duke Home Meet itself as a reason for pride.
“There’s nothing like it,” Lin said. “The Duke Home Meet is by far the best organized and best attended meet at any collegiate level.”