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Duke fencing's underclassmen shine at home meet

<p>The Blue Devil men notched a 3-2 ledger this weekend at Card Gym, a day before the Duke women went 2-3.</p>

The Blue Devil men notched a 3-2 ledger this weekend at Card Gym, a day before the Duke women went 2-3.

The Blue Devils had a productive weekend hosting their annual five-team round robin with strong showings from every class and weapon group. 

In Duke’s home meet hosted at Card Gymnasium, the Blue Devils took on North Carolina, Brandeis, Penn State and Notre Dame. The No. 9 men's squad men emerged from Saturday’s competition with a 3-2 record and the women posted a 2-3 outing Sunday.

The men’s team notched victories against Brandeis, North Carolina and Johns Hopkins and narrowly dropped the contest against No. 4 Penn State and No. 2 Notre Dame, led by the foil squad, which finished with a team-best 4-1 record.

“I think the team did about what we expected from them," Duke assistant coach Darius Wei said. “You always expect a really tough bout from Penn State and Notre Dame. Notre Dame is particularly nasty on the men’s foil side, so at least for the foil squad, coming in and picking up two looks pretty good to me.”

The foil team was buoyed by junior Ethan Yu and freshman Will Feldman. Yu had a 5-1 record on the day and an undefeated record against Penn State—going 3-0 against the Nittany Lions—and battled back from a hard fall in a bout against Notre Dame when Yu’s opponent’s elbow collided with his mask and knocked him to the ground, chipping his tooth. Although Yu lost the bout, he returned against Johns Hopkins to find victory.

Feldman was successful all day, and the touch of the day from any fencer belonged to the Atlanta native, who managed an athletic over-the-back offensive in close quarters.

Freshman Bryn Hammarberg and sophomore Dean Ischiropolous carried the épée team. Hammarberg’s 9-3 record came against the most difficult competition, as the Maplewood, N.J., native went undefeated against Penn State and 2-1 against Notre Dame. Ischiropoulous contributed nine victories as well to help lead the Blue Devil épées to a 3-2 performance, with losses to Johns Hopkins and North Carolina in what ended up as overall team victories.

The saber team, led by senior captain Charles Copti and sophomore Pascual di Tella, finished 3-2 as well. Di Tella led the team with 10 victories and Copti was not far behind with eight of his own. Peter Yang, last week’s ACC Fencer of the Week, struggled following his dominant performances in South Bend last week, but still finished with a 7-8 record.

“Coming into it, there’s a lot of nerves,” Copti said. “On my side as a captain, you want to leave the team feeling confident and strong. A large part of today goes to our Foil and épée squads. Épée was able to hold their own against the top two teams here and pull out a lot of victories. Foil was very consistent with their efforts and worked really hard. Being a little biased, the saber squad did very well, and that’s my squad. We were able to go with the flow, analyze things and reposition ourselves. A lot of it, when you get to this point, is just a mental game, so I felt proud to know that even though we started a little bit slower, we were able to push ourselves up.”

The women’s team faced nearly the same opponents—with Temple in the place of Johns Hopkins—and had a largely similar set of results as the men, finishing 2-3 and notching wins against Brandeis and North Carolina.

The women were led by the épée team and double-digit victories by freshman Camille Esnault and senior Isabella Barna. Esnault’s 10-3 record was the best on the day, but Barna was not far behind at 10-5. The épées notched impressive wins against No. 2 Notre Dame, North Carolina and Brandeis but dropped close contests to No. 9 Penn State and Temple.

Junior Julia Lee earned 10 wins of her own to pace the foil squad, and freshman Kristen Coury followed with a 7-8 record. The team found most of its success against Brandeis and North Carolina, notching seven victories to two in both matchups, and lost narrowly to Notre Dame, Temple and Penn State, falling just one win short in each round against those opponents.

The saber team struggled Sunday, going 0-5 overall. Sophomore Jennifer Ling carried the squad with eight victories and was the only Blue Devil to post a winning record—the rest of Ling's squad combined to go 2-25.

"They look really good, they’re a good squad, they’re working well together and they’re not afraid of anybody," Wei said. "They’ll get up and punch with anybody, so that’s really what we want.”

The team is back in action at the Philadelphia Invitational Feb. 21 after a break next week for individuals to attend the Junior Olympics in Cleveland.

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