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Duke fencing sweeps ACC Championships

The Blue Devils took down Boston College and North Carolina for the title.
The Blue Devils took down Boston College and North Carolina for the title.

It was a historic weekend for Duke fencing.

Both the Blue Devil's men's and women's squads took home the team ACC championship in Chapel Hill Sunday, each defeating Boston College and North Carolina. The win marks the first conference title in program history for the women and the second for the men, who also took home the conference championship in 2018.

The team title came a day after a historic haul at the individual championships Saturday, with the Blue Devils winning five of the six possible individual titles. Juniors Huda Aldadah, Alex Gorman and Zoe Superville won individual championships for the women in the epee, saber and foil, respectively, while sophomore foil Finn Hossfeld and freshman saberist Stephen Kim took home first-place honors for the men.

"We have been trying for so many years to improve what we are doing.... The fencers themselves make the program," head coach Alex Beguinet said. "So getting good, good fencers and good students—and I think this year, everything clicked and made it happen."

The women swept through the team competition Sunday, taking down the Eagles and Tar Heels in consecutive wins to capture the title. Superville led the way, taking home MVP honors of the entire women's championship.

Superville has been a standout for the Blue Devils ever since arriving on campus, placing third in the ACC and 15th in the NCAA as a freshman in 2019. She fell to sixth place in the conference last season, but rebounded with a dominant showing this past weekend, finishing 13-0 Saturday to win her individual title and then 6-0 Sunday in the team competition.

"Her name is Superville and I call her superwoman," Beguinet said, "because she's doing a tremendous good job. She's a very good fencer.... She did a very, very good job of talking to the team, and taking charge of the team, make them make a unit and encourage the team to win. She was a driving force this weekend."

While the women cruised to the title, the men didn't have it quite so easy, losing to Boston College 14-13 to open the team competition Sunday.

"If we had won that by one match, everything would have been a lot smoother," Beguinet said.

The men were able to take down North Carolina, though, forcing a fence-off between the three programs for the title. 

In the fence-off, Duke redeemed its earlier loss and defeated the Eagles 2-1 to advance to the second round against the Tar Heels, with the Blue Devils needing to win two of their three bouts against their archrivals to win the crown.

Senior saberist Ping Ping Kitsiriboon opened with a victory, but Hossfeld fell at foil. The ACC championship then came down to junior epeeist Kevin Chao, who clinched the title for Duke with a narrow victory.

"We went the hard way to win the championships.... Those kids were underneath a lot of pressure," Beguinet said. "They took everything themselves...there was a lot of pressure, and they went on top of it. So I'm very proud of those kids. I don't know if I could have done it myself."

Notre Dame didn't make the trip to Chapel Hill out of an "abundance of caution" following positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing within the program.

Duke will now turn its focus toward the co-ed NCAA Championships, which will take place March 25-28 at Penn State. 

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