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Newcomers Sapienza, Gronningsater star for Duke fencing at first North American Cup

<p>The Blue Devils have added several talented freshmen who appear poised to make a big splash this season.&nbsp;</p>

The Blue Devils have added several talented freshmen who appear poised to make a big splash this season. 

The Blue Devils were not sure they would be able to travel to the first North American Cup (NAC) of the year because of stormy weather. 

But once they made it to Detroit, they made the most of the opportunity.

Freshman Lindsay Sapienza finished seventh out of 120 in the Division I women's saber competition and fellow rookie Eoin Gronningsater earned an 11th-place finish out of 233 competitors in the Division I men's foil event to highlight Duke's finishes at the first of four NACs in 2016-17. The two freshmen were not the only ones who stood out for the Blue Devils, though, as junior Pascual Di Tella tied for 21st out of 185 in the men's saber event. 

"We are very proud of all of our fencers who travelled to Detroit this past weekend to compete against some of the best in the country," head coach Alex Beguinet told GoDuke.com. "Lindsay had the best showing of all with her 7th place finish in women's saber. Eoin did a phenomenal job landing in 11th place. We are just as proud of the others."

Sapienza made the podium Monday to wrap up the four-day event for Duke, posting a 4-1 record in pool play and notching four straight wins following a bye in the Table of 128. Sapienza fell in the quarterfinals to Zara Moss, who went on to earn a silver medal.

Gronningsater also earned eight wins at the event, opening competition for the Blue Devils Saturday. Like Sapienza, the touted freshman fell to the eventual silver medalist, Alexander Choupenitch, in the Table of 16. Gronningsater, who competed at the Junior World Cup early this year, went 5-1 in pool play and won three knockout-round battles after a bye in the Table of 256. 

Di Tella competed Sunday and went a perfect 5-0 in pool play. The team captain was unable to advance past the Table of 32, however, after earning a bye in the Table of 256, but still left Detroit with a top-25 finish.

"All of the weapons had very, very strong slates of competitors at this first Division I event of the new competition year," Beguinet said. "Olympians, post-collegiate Olympian hopefuls, the best collegiate fencers and the best pre-collegiate fencers were joined by some of the strongest international fencers, making each field very strong."

Freshman Ben Stone was the only other Duke competitor to finish in the top 50 in his event, tying for 50th in the men's saber competition after a 4-2 pool play record and victories in the Tables of 128 and 64.

Sophomore Will Feldman also competed in men's foil, freshman Kendyl Bree fenced in the women's epee event, freshman Aidan McGinnis competed in men's epee and fellow rookie Duncan De Caire joined Di Tella and Stone in the men's saber competition. 

“I know that each of our fencers will be returning to campus with feedback for their coaches on what worked and what they will need to work on for the next Division I NAC, with an eye on preparing for the collegiate season,” Beguinet said.

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