The Blue Devils sent 10 fencers to compete at December North American Cup (NAC) this weekend, but it was the two assistant coaches who stole the show.
Duke assistant coaches Leslie Marx and Jacek Huchwajda competed in special vet-50 events this weekend in Richmond, Va. Marx went 5-0 in pool play before streaking toward a first-place finish in the vet-50 women’s epee. In the vet-50 men's saber, Huchwajda entered as the No. 25 seed and went 4-2 in pool play before winning five straight to earn the second gold medal of the weekend for the Blue Devils.
Dakota Nollner led the Duke student fencers in his first start of the season this weekend. The junior epeeist won five of his six contests in pool play and advanced to the quarterfinals, where he lost to the eventual bronze medalist Dylan Bethel. Nollner finished sixth overall in the men’s epee, and was the only student to make the podium.
“The epeeists did very well, especially Dakota [Nollner],” Duke head coach Alex Beguinet told GoDuke.com. “It was truly the best fencing we have seen from him so far in his college career. We are looking forward to him continuing at that level as we head into our NCAA meets.”
Juniors Alec Ajnsztajn and Bobak Shadpoor also made their season debuts in the men’s epee event. Ajnsztajn went 5-1 in pool play and Shadpoor—who competed for the first time since 2015—split his six pool play matches. Ajnsztajn and Shadpoor finished tied for 40th and 93rd overall.
The last two epeeists for the Blue Devils were freshman Kendyl Bree, who competed in the women’s event, and Aidan McGinnis. Bree struggled and finished winless in five matches, but McGinnis compiled a 4-2 record in pool play.
In the saber events, Pascual Di Tella was the only Blue Devil in the top 10. The junior went 5-1 in pool play, and advanced to the table of 16—good enough for a ninth-place finish.
"We are so pleased with the performances of all of our fencers this weekend," Beguinet said. “All of the saberists did well, also. Best finish was Pascual [Di Tella] who was knocked out just before the final round, landing in ninth place.”
In addition to Di Tella’s performance, freshman Lindsey Sapienza continued to impress in the women’s saber event.
Sapienza finished 14th after a 4-2 record in pool play, and fell to the eventual silver medalist Dagmara Wozniak in the elimination rounds. The Bardonia, N.Y., native also finished seventh at the October NAC in her first career competition.
Freshmen Ben Stone and Agoston Walker rounded out the lineup for Duke.
Walker went 4-1 in pool play, and Stone split his six pool play matches. The two saberists finished 35th and 65th overall after Walker took sixth and Stone placed 36th in the November NAC—which was a junior event.
The tandem faced tougher competition this time around and could not quite replicate their earlier successes.
“The fencers who were at this NAC each learned they have something to work on over the next few weeks before we come back ready to travel on January,” Beguinet said. “This event was a good opportunity for those self-evaluations."
The Blue Devils will return home for break before competing in the January NAC and the official NCAA meets that follow.
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Digital Strategy Director for Vol. 115, Michael was previously Sports Editor for Vol. 114 and Assistant Blue Zone Editor for Vol. 113. Michael is a senior majoring in Statistical Science and is interested in data analytics and using data to make insights.