After opening the season with a lackluster performance at the Penn State Invitational, Duke got back on the right track at the Pennsylvania Invitational behind big performances from its underclassman.
Freshman Julia Lee and Christopher Monti led the way for the Blue Devils, posting 11-4 and 15-3 records on the weekend, respectively. Along with help from sophomores Charles Copti, Isabella Barna and Angelica Hubbard, both teams were able to walk away from the meet with winning records.
"It's nice to see the team deliver the quality performances they're capable of," head coach Alex Beguinet said. "Getting back over .500 was a nice confidence booster, and puts us on track going into a tough meet at Northwestern."
The men went 5-1, with their lone loss coming at the hands of host Pennsylvania. After the team suffered setbacks early in the season, Copti cited the lack of a competitive edge as something that hurt the Blue Devils but said that changed following the Penn State Invitational.
"We went into the first duals meet not necessarily with the right mindset," Copti said. "We were training and practicing really hard but we didn't really have that competitive edge yet."
On the women's side, Duke was able to go 3-2, with Barna and Hubbard pulling off matching 10-5 records. Just as with the men's, the underclassman racking up a high number of victories relieved pressure from seniors to carry the load.
"Our group is pretty tight knit. Any one fencer or squad can have an off match, so it's important that they cover for each other," Beguinet said. "If you look at the match against Sacred Heart, our épée squad took a bit of a beating, but foil and saber won by enough of a margin to provide cover and get Duke the win."
Monti has been a standout performer for the Blue Devils, racking up a team-high 23 victories so far this season. Saturday was no different for the Chicago native as he posted the second highest win total for the team behind Copti, who ended with a 16-2 mark.
"Monti has all the tools to be a postseason contender," Beguinet said. "Obviously his performance to this point has been excellent. Consistency is the key here—we're only a third of the way through the season."
Looking ahead to next weekend's Northwestern Invitational, Duke seems to be picking up momentum at the perfect time. The field will be the toughest one the Blue Devils have faced yet and will need a repeat performance of this past weekend if they wish to see similar success.
"Northwestern is the biggest meet of the regular season, and we'll be competing against several ranked teams. Ohio State, Notre Dame, Northwestern and Stanford are all going to be tough matches," Beguinet said.