Last month, two of the four freshman Duke sent to Milwaukee came back with top-10 finishes in their respective events.
In this weekend’s December North American Cup, the Blue Devils look to continue to place well behind a mix of both of newcomers and veterans. Duke will be sending 10 members of its team to Richmond, Va., where they will compete from Friday to Monday.
"We are very excited about this weekend's NAC,” Duke head coach Alex Beguinet told GoDuke.com. “The proximity of this event to campus allows us and more fencers than would usually take travel time away from studies to attend.”
After a strong performance in the November competition, the Blue Devils will have four returning fencers hitting the strips for the first time this season—juniors Alec Ajnsztajn, Dakota Nollner, Bobak Shadpoor and sophomore Bryn Hammarberg will all be making their season debuts.
Hammarberg led Duke epeeists with a 52-22 record a season ago and added a top-10 finish in the ACC championship, as well as a 14th-place result in the NCAA championship. Nollner will also look to replicate his results from last year, when he was recognized as an All-ACC fencer and finished second in the epee competition in the conference championship.
Shadpoor and Ajnsztajn will be the other two veterans competing in the epee. Shadpoor will be making his first start since 2015 and Ajnsztajn finished his sophomore season 16-11 with a pair of top-15 finishes in the postseason.
The returners will be joined by a pair of freshman looking to get some much-needed experience.
Freshman Aidan McGinnis will compete in the men's epee Friday and hope to improve upon his performance from the November NAC. The Boulder, Colo., native finished 2-5 a month ago and placed No. 57 out of 260 competitors in the field.
On the women's side of the ledger, freshman Kendyl Bree will compete for the first time of the season as Duke's lone epee in the competition.
“We will be watching our epeeists and saberists,” Beguinet said. “We will be able to see for ourselves how they fence and how ready they are for our upcoming NCAA competition in a few weeks.”
In the saber event, freshmen Lindsey Sapienza and Agoston Walter are both looking to build upon strong finishes earlier this season. Although each fencer has just one career competition under their belt, both are expected to be key contributors for the Blue Devils.
Sapienza made it all the way to the podium at the October NAC, as she posted a 4-1 record in pool play. The freshman won four straight matches before losing to the eventual silver medalist in the quarterfinals.
Walter was just as impressive in the November NAC with a 6-0 record in pool play and four straight victories in the elimination portion of the event to place sixth out of 210 competitors.
Although much of the Duke team will be competing in Richmond, Va., this weekend, there is no foil event at the December NAC. Instead, the Blue Devils’ foil squad will travel to New York to compete in the foil next weekend.
Interestingly enough, the Blue Devil upperclassmen will not be the only veterans competing for Duke.
In addition to the saber and epee competitions, the Blue Devils will have some special members of the coaching staff competing as well. Volunteer assistant coach Leslie Marx will compete as the No. 7 seed in the Vet-50 Women’s Epee Friday, and saber coach Jacek Huchwajda is ranked 25th in the Vet-50 Men’s Saber.
“Both are eying a berth on the Vet World team and this event marks the beginning of the qualification process for that selection," Beguinet said. "We are so proud of them for actively demonstrating that fencing is a sport for life.”
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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.