Duke doesn’t get the chance to fence in front of a home crowd often—it happens once a year to be exact—but the Blue Devils made the most of their opportunity this weekend at the annual Duke Home Meet.With strong performances from the epee and foil squads, the No. 10 men's team rolled to a 4-1 record, and the women's team was able to rebound from its loss to No. 8 Temple to defeat its other four opponents. In addition to continuing the hot streak both teams have been on in the past three weeks, the Blue Devils were also able to accomplish the most important goal for any Duke team: defeat North Carolina.
"This year, we beat [the Tar Heels] pretty solidly, so we were all really psyched about that," junior epee Eugene Chung said. "North Carolina is by far the most fun. We had two huge crowds. That kind of energy that we feel at the Duke Home Meet is not replicated anywhere else, so I'm sure the seniors really loved it as their last time."
The men's team—ranked for the first time all season—had another impressive showing Saturday as they stormed to a 4-1 record. In the past three weeks of play, the men's team has been nearly unstoppable, racking up a 17-3 record between the Philadelphia Invitational, Northwestern Duals and this weekend's Duke Home Meet.
Senior epees Alessio Santoro and Dylan Nollner were nearly perfect Saturday, posting 13-1 and 9-1 records, respectively. The pair led an epee squad that, along with the foil squad, posted a perfect 5-0 record on the weekend.
The sole loss for the men's team came against Brandeis, as the Blue Devils dropped a close bout 15-12. The defeat was disappointing, but Chung and the rest of the team know the single loss will not take away from the success of the weekend as a whole.
"This week, especially [Saturday], we did a great job," Chung said. "Our sabre squad went 5-0, which is the squad I'm in. As a team we did well against Brandeis, we were a little overconfident which I think is why we fell."
The women's team was led by junior epee Sarah Collins, who posted a 10-1 record, and freshman foil Julia Lee, who finished the day at 10-2. The pair's performance helped to boost the team's overall season record to 17-9 and keep the women's team on a roll.
After a slow start to the season, the women's team began to turn things around at the Philadelphia Invitational, where they went 3-2, and then last week's Northwestern Duals, where the team finished 8-4. With a 4-1 finish at home this weekend, the team seems to have found a focus that it lacked early in the season.
"At this level, it's all mental," Collins said. "It's all where you're at, where your team's at, how you're focusing and it's hard to go to your first tournament and have that mental focus when you're there. So I think that as the weeks go on, as the tournaments go on, our team's getting more focused on what we're doing."
In what was the most anticipated match of the weekend for the fencers and fans alike, the Blue Devils overtook rival North Carolina in every facet of both contests en route to a 19-8 victory for the men and a 16-11 win for the women. For seniors, defeating the Tar Heels in their final home meet was all too sweet.
"We've been beating them for the last couple years, which is awesome," Chung said. "This year I'm sure for the seniors, especially. Every year feels great to come out with a win."
With two big meets looming in the next two weeks, the fencers are sure to have their sights set on continuing their recent success. But before anyone can think ahead about upcoming meets, they will have to turn their attention to cleaning up Card Gym.
"If everyone is here on the team, we hope that it takes only three-and-a-half hours," Collins said. "It's a very long process. It takes us two whole days to set up."
Once cleanup is finally finished and the fencers have the Duke Home Meet behind them, the underclassman will turn their attention to the Junior Olympics, slated for next weekend. The underclassman who do not qualify will join the upperclassman and take the weekend to rest and prepare for the following week's Temple Duals.