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Duke fencing completes near-perfect weekend at Duke meet with just 1 loss

The Blue Devils went unbeaten on the men's side and avenged an earlier loss to Penn State.
The Blue Devils went unbeaten on the men's side and avenged an earlier loss to Penn State.

Duke doesn’t often get the chance to play in front of a home crowd, but it certainly took advantage this weekend. 

After a strong showing at the Northwestern Duals last Saturday and Sunday, the ninth-ranked Blue Devil men’s fencers went undefeated Saturday, knocking off No. 5 Penn State and North Carolina at the Duke Meet at Card Gym. Saturday’s 16-11 decision against the Tar Heels marked the 24th time in a row that Duke has beaten its Tobacco Road rival. 

On Sunday, the No. 10 women’s team also took care of business, finishing 3-1, with its only loss coming against No. 3 Penn State—a tightly contested 15-12 decision. With just the USFA Junior Olympics Championships left before the ACC championships later this month in Chapel Hill, both teams feel they are in a good position. 

“We have great momentum heading into the postseason now. We’re ready to go,” Blue Devil assistant coach Darius Wei said. “The chemistry really came along from the beginning of the year. We worked together. We’re a growing team.”

After struggling a bit at the Penn State Duals in January and falling to the Nittany Lions 14-13, the men’s team bounced back Saturday to down Penn State 16-11. The win marked its second against a ranked team in two weeks after downing then-No. 10 Stanford at the Northwestern Duals. 

Senior foil Jan Maceczek led the way, finishing with a 9-3 individual record after helping push the foils to finish 4-0. Fellow foils Jonathan Schwartzman, Eoin Gronningsater and Brycen Rushing combined to finish 18-6 this weekend to help the group go undefeated. 

“We absolutely gave it our all in the strip,” Maceczek said. “We really showed them what we got. It’s going to give us a lot of confidence going forward.” 

The saber group also went undefeated, as Pascual Di Tella and Duncan De Caire led the way by both going 7-1. The men only fell once—in the epee, finishing 3-1 overall. 

On the women’s side, the Blue Devils lost for the second time this year to No. 3 Penn State. The Blue Devils put up a good fight in the foil and epee, taking those 7-4, but got squashed in the sabre, falling 7-2. The result: a 15-12 defeat. 

Other than that, though, Duke blew through No. 7 Temple 16-11, carried by a 3-0 mark from Lindsay Sapienza on the saber and a 2-1 mark from Camille Esnault at epee. The Blue Devils also downed Brandeis 24-4 and North Carolina 16-11, winning in the foil and epee by a 5-4 margin and a 6-3 margin in the sabre. 

“Having a really good home meet encourages us,” Esnault said. “We know that we can do this. It gives us so much confidence heading into ACCs. We can beat anyone.” 

Duke was supposed to take on No. 1 Notre Dame this weekend, but a snowstorm in Chicago grounded the Fighting Irish's flight. The Blue Devils will have to wait until the ACC championships Feb. 24 and 25 to get their shot at downing the nation’s top squad. 

“I like our chances,” Wei said. “It would have been nice to get some reps against Notre Dame. But the fencers are really hungry to get after them. They haven’t seen us, so that will be a fun surprise.”

Ben Leonard

Managing Editor 2018-19, 2019-2020 Features & Investigations Editor 

A member of the class of 2020 hailing from San Mateo, Calif., Ben is The Chronicle's Towerview Editor and Investigations Editor. Outside of the Chronicle, he is a public policy major working towards a journalism certificate, has interned at the Tampa Bay Times and NBC News and frequents Pitchforks. 


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