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Duke fencing dominates home meet

<p>Duke fencing had a strong showing in the NCAA championships this weekend.</p>

Duke fencing had a strong showing in the NCAA championships this weekend.

The energy was palpable in Duke’s only home meet of the season, with the noise of the crowd and athletes themselves emanating that of nearby Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The Blue Devils were coming off a strong showing at Northwestern that saw them defeat five ranked opponents including the men defeating then-No. 1 Notre Dame (14-13) in a rematch of last year’s ACC Championship. Both the men’s and women’s squad entered this weekend’s home meet ranked No. 6 in the country—tied for the highest in program history. 

Saturday, the men’s team finished with a 4-1 ledger, with the foil squad tallying a perfect 5-0 showing. Duke defeated Air Force (18-9) and Johns Hopkins (22-5) along with conference opponents Boston College (19-8) and North Carolina (19-8). This marked the 25th time in a row that the Blue Devils have beat their Tobacco Road rival. Duke’s one loss of the day came to No. 4 Penn State in a 15-12 defeat.

The women’s team competed on Sunday, finishing with an overall record of 3-2. They trounced both Air Force and Boston College, each by a score of 20-7. Following the example set by the men the day before, they beat their Tobacco Road rival 16-11. Their losses came to No. 4 Penn State and No. 2 Northwestern, both of them with an incredibly tight score of 14-13.

“This weekend is a tough weekend. Both teams performed very well. The men won more than the women this time but that’s the way it goes," head coach Alex Beguinet said. "It was really rewarding for the fencers and coaches to be at home in front of good competition. I am very pleased.”

For the men’s foil group (5-0 on the day), sophomore Brycen Rushing tallied a near perfect showing, going 11-1. Junior Eoin Gronningsater tallied only one loss as well, going 8-1. For the saber group (4-1), both sophomore San Ha Lim and sophomore Ping Ping Kitsiriboon totaled 10 wins, going 10-1 and 10-5 respectively. Kitsiriboon entered this meet as ACC Male Fencer of the Week. Redshirt sophomore saber Ben Stone finished 9-1 on the day. It was in epee where the men struggled, going 3-2 overall. However, two epeeists garnered nine wins each, with senior Bryn Hammarberg going 9-3 and sophomore Amit Sarma tallying a 9-5 record. The men won both the saber and foil trophies for the meet.

The women’s foil group matched the men, going 5-0. Senior Rhiannon Harvey paced the group with a nearly flawless 10-1 ledger. Again matching the men, the saber group went 4-1, with junior Lindsay Sapienza tallying a team-leading 12 victories and an overall ledger of 12-3. The epee group was more lackluster, going 2-3 but freshman Ava Navarro impressed, going 8-4 on the day. The women’s foil group, led by Harvey, won the tournament’s foil trophy—a first since Harvey has been at Duke.

“I was really excited to have the chance to fence hard for my team, win those crucial bouts and support my squad,” Harvey said. “It was really great to have the chance to shine with my squad at home.”

It’s been a busy several weeks for the Blue Devils. The ACC championships are coming up in Massachusetts Feb. 23 and 24. As the second-highest ranked team in the ACC, the Blue Devils look to go toe-to-toe with top-ranked Notre Dame. For the women it would be a chance for revenge after falling to Notre Dame 18-9 at Northwestern and for the men it would be a chance add on another win over the Irish this season. 

“We need rest. First is rest. We can improve on rest," Beguinet said. "There’s always something to improve but right now the kids are tired and we will give them a few days off and I think the best thing for them will be to rest and get ready for next-next weekend."

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