Coming off a 2017 season with multiple Blue Devils garnering All-American accolades in last year’s NCAA tournament, Duke looked to continue that success in the new year against nationally-ranked competition.
And after a long day of fencing, the Blue Devils proved that their roster is ready to handle even the toughest competition that can come their way.
Duke traveled to State College, Pa., Sunday to compete in the Penn State Duals, a contest featuring Penn State, Columbia, Haverford, North Carolina, Temple and Pennsylvania. Despite a stacked field featuring the four top-10 women’s teams and three top-six men’s teams, including No. 1 Columbia, both of Duke’s teams picked up upset wins.
The Blue Devil women took down Haverford 25-2 and the No. 6 Quakers 15-12 but were defeated by the No. 4 Nittany Lions 16-11, the top-ranked Lions 18-9 and the No. 10 Bulldogs 15-12. Meanwhile, the No. 9 Duke men’s team also cruised to a 25-2 win against Haverford alongside a 16-11 win against No. 4 Pennsylvania and a 21-6 win against Yale but came up short against No. 6 Penn State 14-13 and Columbia 19-8.
“It looks promising,” Blue Devil head coach Alex Beguinet said. “Stuff like this should only get better and better, so it was a good start. It was very promising.”
On the men’s side, Duke dominated the foil and the saber but struggled with the epee. The Blue Devils outclassed four of their five opponents throughout the day in saber, with none of Duke’s fencers holding a negative record in that weapon class. In his collegiate debut, freshman Ping Ping Kitsiriboon went 10-5 in saber while senior Pascual Di Tella and sophomore Eoin Gronningsater both went 11-2 for the day in saber and foil, respectively.
Although the Blue Devils struggled in epee—falling short in two of their three matches—some Duke fencers excelled individually. Junior Bryn Hammarberg collected 11 victories with just four losses, and senior Dean Ischiropoulos—who has not seen the strips since his sophomore year—racked up 10 wins and six losses.
For the women’s team, despite shining on the foil, the Blue Devils struggled in the epee and were almost completely swept on saber.
Leading the charge for Duke’s 4-1 record in foil was freshman Julia Gianneschi, who went 11-4. Not far behind her, sophomore Zuzu Tang and junior Kristen Coury contributed seven wins apiece. But the Blue Devils only bested two of five opponents on the epee and one in saber, with sophomores Kendyl Bree and Lindsay Sapienza the only Duke athletes with positive records in either category. Bree finished 3-2 for the day in epee, and Sapienza went 8-7 in saber. Juniors Camille Esnault and Claudia Wrampelmeier both contributed to six wins apiece for epee, despite suffering eight and six losses, respectively.
“We are very happy to have our [freshmen],” Beguinet said. “The recruiting went well, and [Ping Ping and Julia] showed that they are doing a good job, and we are doing a good job.”
The Blue Devils will return to action Jan. 20 for the Philadelphia Invitational, where they will have a rematch against Pennsylvania.
“Since we beat Penn this past weekend, we want to repeat that,” Beguinet said. “Of course, Penn will be the most focused competition we have. The other teams—we know them, they should be to our strengths, but the most important will be Penn. Of course we want to beat everybody, but we fence Penn again, so they don’t want us to beat them again. So that will be one of the stronger matches and a big match for the next competition.”
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