Coming off a dominant performance in the Duke meet Feb. 11-12, the Blue Devils looked to carry their momentum into the ACC championship—their final team event of the year.
After walking away from competition with two second-place team finishes and six medals—including three won by freshmen—the future is looking bright for the program.
The Blue Devils found success on their home strips as both men's and women's teams finished second at the conference championship with 2-1 records in team play Saturday and Sunday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The No. 9 men were dominant against North Carolina and Boston College before falling to fourth-ranked Notre Dame Saturday, and the 10th-ranked women defeated the same two opponents Sunday. The Blue Devil men fell to the Fighting Irish 14-13, just one bout shy of the team's first-ever ACC championship.
“We really very close to winning the ACCs, and that would have been historic for Duke,” said junior saberist Pascual Di Tella, who claimed an individual conference crown Sunday. “This was probably the first ACCs that we actually had a chance of winning. We competed very well, and I’m very happy with this team.”
The men’s saber team continued its recent success, cruising to a perfect 3-0 record in competition. Junior Peter Yang had an outstanding 8-1 record and Di Tella went a perfect 4-0 on the day. Freshmen Duncan De Caire and Agoston Walter were also efficient on the strips, posting a combined 10-4 ledger Saturday to round out the saber team.
Duke men's foil also had a strong showing en route to a 2-1 finish. Rookies Jonathan Schwartzman and Eoin Gronningsater ended competition with 7-2 and 6-3 records, respectively. Junior Jan Maceczek won four straight before dropping his final three bouts, and a perfect 2-0 afternoon for sophomore Will Feldman rounded out the unit's performances Saturday.
The Blue Devils managed to push Notre Dame to the limit and nearly won the title despite getting a 1-2 effort from their epees, including a 7-2 defeat at the hands of the Fighting Irish. The unit only had one competitor post a winning record on the weekend.
In individual competition Sunday, four men medaled in three events. Di Tella won the gold in the saber competition by posting an 11-2 pool-play record before convincingly winning both knockout round matchups as the No. 1 seed, and rookies Walter and Gronningsater each took home bronze medals in the saber and foil. Sophomore Bryn Hammarberg added another bronze in the epee competition.
“It was a good competition for all those kids,” Duke head coach Alex Beguinet said. “Pascual deserves it. He fenced well, he was strong, he should have been there and he was there. It was the end of the season and everyone was tired. Yesterday they fenced so hard against Notre Dame, I was afraid today they would be too tired, but they finished strong to end the season, so it was pretty good.”
Like the men’s team, the Duke women also finished second behind No. 3 Notre Dame after a 2-1 team performance.
The epees and sabers both ended competition with 2-1 ledgers on the weekend. Senior epee Rita Somogyi led the way with her 11-4 pool play, advancing to the final match and falling to Notre Dame's Amanda Sirico but still earning All-ACC honors along with her silver medal.
Sophomore epees Camille Esnault and Claudia Wrampelmeier both managed 9-6 records, and sophomore Vivian Wang added six victories to round out the epee effort.
Freshman Lindsay Sapienza finished 10-4 in pool play before losing 15-7 to Notre Dame's Francesca Russo in the saber finals. Juniors Haley Fisher and Jennifer Ling finished 7-7 and 8-6, respectively to round out the unit's effort.
In foil, the women could not find much success, however, ending competition just 1-2. But the team still finished second, just behind Notre Dame and ended the season on a high note after a tough start to the year in back-to-back Pennsylvania meets.
“The first meet was bad and the second meet not too good. The third and fourth meets were very good and this one we finished on a good note,” Beguinet said. "I think for all the kids there was a very strong progression, and I think we’re progressing all the way to the top, so it was a good season.”
In addition to success in the team event, numerous Blue Devils found success in individual action. Both Somogyi and Sapienza finished with silver medals in epee and saber competition, and all medalists will find out in the coming days whether they will get to compete individually at NCAA regionals March 11 in Easton, Pa. The best regional competitors will travel to the NCAA championship in South Bend, Ind., March 23-26.
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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.