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Duke fencing impresses with top-10 NCAA finish

<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.

Duke closed out the season with a strong finish at the NCAA Championships in Cleveland, Ohio with an eighth-place finish, a program-best mark. It marks their sixth year in a row finishing in the top-10. 

Before competition even began, the Blue Devils had already set a new program record, sending ten student-athletes to compete—four on the men’s side of things and six for the women. Their previous best was eight in 2017.

Competition began on Thursday with the men’s portion of the competition. At the end of the day, Duke sat in 10th place in team standings with 24 points. Junior foilist Eoin Gronningsater and sophomore foilist Brycen Rushing impressed, finishing 8th and 9th respectively. Gronningsater had nine victories on the day and Rushing had seven. In the saber category, sophomore Ping Ping Kitsiriboon had six wins, good for 17th. Senior Bryn Hammarberg rounded out the Blue Devil contingent, sitting at 24th in the epee category. 

The second day of competition saw both Gronningsater and Kitsiriboon capture All-American honors in their respective weapons. Gronningsater moved up the ledger by one spot, finishing 7th overall in the foil category with 15 wins. He became the first Blue Devil male foilist to secure back-to-back All-America accolades since 2010-2011. Kitsiriboon surged up the standings, going 6-2 on the day for a total of 12 victories, good to move him up six spots to 11th in the saber category. This was his first trip to the NCAA tournament.

Rushing just missed All-America status in foil, securing four more wins on the day for a total of 11, but also dropping 4 spots to 13th overall. This was a four-spot improvement for him from last year’s finish. Hammarberg finished out his Duke career at 24th in men’s epee.

Going into the third day and the beginning of the women’s competition, the Blue Devils were sitting in 10th with 41 points. Duke brought an impressive display of young talent with three freshmen, two sophomores and one junior competing. At the end of the day, freshman Alex Gorman sat in 14th in women’s saber with 7 victories followed closely by junior teammate Lindsay Sapienza in 16th. Freshman foilist Zoe Superville took 15th with 6 wins followed by sophomore Julia Gianneschi at 21st. The women’s contingent was rounded out with two participants in the epee category—sophomore Maria Papadopoulos sat in 22nd with freshman Huda Aldadah right behind her in 23rd. 

The Blue Devils moved up two places on the day,into eighth in team standings with 72 points. 

The fourth and final day of competition didn’t see any more All-American accolades for the Blue Devils but the freshmen continued to impress, boding well for future tournaments. In the saber category freshman Gorman remained in 14th, followed by teammate Sapienza in 19th. In foil, Superville maintained her 15th place finish, followed by Gianneschi who moved up two spots into 19th. Epeeists Aldadah and Papadopoulos swapped positions from their first day of competition, finishing 22nd and 23rd respectively. 

At the end of the day, Duke was eighth in the rankings with 89 points—their ninth top-10 finish in the last 10 seasons. They finished second out of the four ACC schools that were competing, behind only Notre Dame which finished third with 165 points. Columbia/Barnard took home the championship, finishing with 178 points, 12 clear of runner-up Pennsylvania State University.

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