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Blue Devil fencers welcome top competition for Duke Meet

<p>The Blue Devils will host their lone home meet of the year this weekend at Card Gym.</p>

The Blue Devils will host their lone home meet of the year this weekend at Card Gym.

Only once a year, colorful flags hang from the second floor of Card Gym, and the sound of sabers, foils and epées clash.

These are the sights and sounds of the Duke Meet—and they'll be on full display this weekend.

For the last time in their collegiate careers, six Blue Devils will use their weapons to battle six schools in the Duke Annual Meet, which runs Saturday and Sunday at Card Gym. No. 9 Duke takes on No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 5 Penn State, North Carolina, Johns Hopkins and Brandeis beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, and the women’s team will face the top-ranked Fighting Irish, the No. 8 Nittany Lions, No. 10 Temple, the Tar Heels and Judges starting Sunday morning.

“[For the seniors], it’s a sad day because they know this is the last time they will fence here at home,” Duke head coach Alex Beguinet said. “They cry and they make me cry too. It’s inevitable. Some of them will never fence again in their lives because life takes over and they go to the big world. So it’s very emotional for them.”

Veterans Isabella Barna, Samantha Lee and Charles Copti have participated in both of Duke's tournaments so far this spring. Barna leads the women’s epee category with 23 wins, Lee owns a 19-16 record for the foil squad and Copti has amassed 26 victories for the sabers.

Epeeist Michael DeVito will look to capture his first win Saturday after an 0-3 showing at the Penn State Duals Jan. 16. His squad mate Ted Cho and foil Cheng Ma will make their season debuts in the friendly confines of Card Gym.

“Parents fly down every year to come see the meet and we get alumni back. It’s a great community among the fencers,” Lee said. “It’s really sad to think that this is my last Duke Meet ever but I’ll make sure to come back for alumni meets and future meets.”

But not everything will be nostalgia and tears for the Blue Devils this weekend, as sophomore Pascual di Tella and 12 freshmen will get their first taste of the Duke Meet. di Tella—the Blue Devils' top saber with an individual 32-10 ledger—missed last year’s tournament due to international duty with the Argentinian national team.

Freshmen foil Kristen Coury and epeeist Bryn Hammarberg have stolen the spotlight among the newcomers so far this season, leading their weapon squads with 33 and 28 wins, respectively.

“This is the most extravagant meet I’ve ever seen,” Coury said. “All the other meets are really nice but my high school coach actually coaches for Penn and he came last year and he came back saying this was the most well-run meet he’s ever been to.”

Beguinet said that besides the support from family and friends, staying focused will be key if the Blue Devils want to continue delivering strong performances on the piste.

“If you don’t have a drive, what do you achieve?” Beguinet said. “If you don’t have a drive, you don’t do anything. You just sit down at home and watch TV. But here they’re doing fencing, they’re running, they’re doing weight-lifting—it’s a lot of drive for them to do better and get better.” 

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