Any season opener is fraught with anticipation and excitement as expectations are tested and athletes get a first taste of competition. Fortunately for the Blue Devil fencers, they were able to return to the strip in style.
The men and women traveled to State College, Pa., to compete in the Garret Penn State Open. Duke did not disappoint as it had 12 Blue Devil men and 10 women put on top-10 performances. With the perfect blend of veteran experience and rookie talent, Duke was able to engage in some good matchups while also getting a lot of practice in.
“It was a good tournament where everybody fenced a lot and had good competition,” said head coach Alex Beguinet. “Each person got 18-20 bouts, and people could see where they were at.”
The men’s contingent fared better overall, posting two second-place finishes in two different weapon categories and four third-place finishes while also sending three saberists to the semifinals. Freshman saberist Justin Morrill put on a show in his first collegiate competition, notching a second-place victory in front of more experienced veterans in sophomore Lukas Dannull and senior co-captain Terence Lee, who tied for third. Junior Stephen Kim, sophomore Maxwell Greenbaum and senior William Julien all placed in the top 10 in the discipline as well. Sophomore Allen Marakov led the men’s epee group after capturing third place, where he was supported by a sixth-place finish from senior Bowen Wang. Senior Sam Gruber put on a show after tying for third in men’s foil, along with ninth- and 10th-place performances from juniors Brian Lee and David Tierney, respectively.
However, the headliner for Duke was senior co-captain Finn Hossfeld. The All-American foil specialist led the men’s side with a second-place finish in the weapon, putting in 12 victories in pool play before losing out to Penn State junior Aidan Johnson in the final match.
“Finn is a very good fencer. He fenced hard all day and he just fell on the final,” said Beguinet. “He knows what he did and why it didn’t work. I think he realized what he should have done in the end.”
While the women did not see the same level of success, they certainly put on their own show. Senior saberist Zsofia Walter had the highest finish after fighting her way to third in her discipline, following Hossfeld’s lead with 12 pool-play victories of her own. Backing up Walter in the saber was freshman Kungling Tong with sixth, senior Anneke Zegers in seventh, freshman Hava Stone with eighth and sophomore Vivi Buchmann in ninth to put five of the six saberists on the squad in the top 10 on the day.
“Zsofia did well and put in a great performance,” said Beguinet. “She proved that she can be on the top.”
The other weapons achieved lesser success but still put in impressive performances that the team can build on going into the rest of the season. In women’s epee, sophomore Rachel Kowalsky posted a fifth-place finish, the second-best on the women’s squad. Junior Chloe Beittel was right on her heels in sixth. Sophomore Catherine Flanagan was the top Blue Devil in the foil discipline in sixth as well, followed closely by All-American junior Christina Ferrari in ninth.
The freshman talent showed up big for the Duke squad, posting three top-10 finishes in their first big collegiate test. The women’s side also debuted five new members in the outing, while Morrill was particularly impressive for the men as he posted a second-place performance out of the gate.
“Lots of freshmen did very well. I’m very happy that we did a good job recruiting,” said Beguinet. “Some need a little more maturity, but a freshman finishing in the top two is good.”
The Blue Devils will return to action in the new year as they travel to State College, Pa., once more for the Penn State Duals Jan. 15.
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