Last week, sophomore saber Jennifer Ling earned ACC Woman Fencer of the Week accolades after reaching the 50-win mark at the Philadelphia Invitational, where she claimed a team-best 14 victories.
But the underclassman from Cranbury, N.J., was still hungry for more—and is now part of Blue Devil history thanks to her standout performance this weekend.
Ling took home the first ACC championship crown for Duke since 1973 Sunday at the Castellan Family Fencing Center in Notre Dame, Ind., where the Blue Devils battled Notre Dame, North Carolina and Boston College in the two-day conference tournament. After going 12-3 in pool play, the Duke saber upset the Fighting Irish duo of Francesca Russo—the 2015 national champion—and Tara Hassett to capture the gold medal and All-ACC honors.
“What a great day. Jennifer’s performance was superb,” head coach Alex Beguinet told GoDuke.com. “Later in the team room, when we were alone, I asked her if she thought she was going to win and what she was thinking. She said she just focused on the actions in front of her and what she needed to do for each touch. Right up to the winning touch. This was a well-earned victory. Jennifer is a model of sportsmanship. We are extremely proud of her.”
The Blue Devil coach also praised the performance of Ling’s weapon-mate Haley Fisher, who won the bronze medal after defeating Russo 15-12 in the duel for the third place.
In the other women’s individual competitions, the four Blue Devils epeeists—Rita Somogyi, Claudia Wrampelmeier, Isabella Barna and Camille Esnault—finished among the top 10 fencers in the conference Sunday and so did foils Samantha Lee, Cathy Chi, Julia Lee and Kristen Coury.
Epeeist Dakota Nollner won a silver medal in the conference championship and received All-ACC honors this weekend. The sophomore registered 10 wins in pool play Saturday and, after beating Boston College’s Peter Wetzel, fell to the Fighting Irish’s Dylan French 15-13 in the tournament’s final bout.
In the individual portion of the epee category, Dean Ischiropoulos and Bryn Hammarberg turned in solid performances and earned the sixth and ninth positions, respectively. The four Blue Devil foils—Jan Maceczek, Ethan Yu, Will Feldman and Jake Shulman—and the three Duke sabers—Peter Yang, Pascual Di Tella and Charles Copti—were ranked among the top nine fencers in their corresponding categories at the end of the individual competition, as well.
The Blue Devil women’s squad finished second in the team gauntlet, beating the Tar Heels 17-10 and the Eagles 20-7, but lost against the No. 2 Fighting Irish 20-7 Saturday. Led by Fisher’s 7-2 individual ledger, the sabers went 1-2 and the epeeists blanked their three conference foes with a 14-3 combined effort from Esnault and Barna. In the foil category, Chi posted a 3-1 record in the victories against North Carolina and Boston College.
In the men’s team gauntlet, Duke took down the Tar Heels 21-6 and the Eagles 18-9 but, like the women’s team, did not manage to upset the No. 2 Fighting Irish, falling 18-9. Di Tella stole the spotlight—blanking all his opponents in the saber category—and Nollner combined with Hammarberg for 11 wins in the epee section.
“The men did a great job in the team event,” Beguinet told GoDuke.com. “They certainly lived up to what we expected against the teams of North Carolina and Boston College. Against Notre Dame, the final team score does not reflect the fact that many of those bout victories were very, very close and had scores of 4-5. We had lots of close bouts. Our guys fought hard.”
After traveling 1,400 miles on a bus in their round-trip to Indiana, the Blue Devils will have two full weeks to rest and prepare for the NCAA Regional tournament—which will be held in Easton, Pa., March 12.
“After a little time to rest and let the fencers catch up, we will use this week and next to hone the things we saw that need work as we get ready for the qualifier to the NCAA Championships,” Beguinet told GoDuke.com.
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