Duke fencing opens 2023 at Penn State Duals as saber teams shine

<p>Duke at the Penn State Duals.</p>

Duke at the Penn State Duals.

For Duke head coach Alex Beguinet, the first match of the season always comes with “a lot of unknowns.” Garnering six team victories and led by strong rookie performances and success from their saberists, the Blue Devils left little room for doubt at Sunday’s Penn State Duals in State College, Pa. 

Both Duke’s men’s and women’s saber teams posted impressive records—Beguinet proudly described them as being able to match “everybody or anybody in the country.” Despite falling short against both Penn teams, the men’s saber team still gleamed bright, defeating Penn State 6-3 following a 7-2 victory against Penn. After fencing against six schools, the women’s saber team only fell short against Columbia.

Duke’s saber success didn’t end there—first-year saberist Kunling Tong posted the most successful individual record of the day with 15 victories, echoing her successful performance at the Garret Penn State Open. Freshman foilist Rachel Koo jumpstarted her college career with 14 wins, while senior saberist Zsofia Walter and junior foilist Christina Ferrari tacked on another 13 and 11 victories, respectively. Beguinet pointed to Tong and Koo’s standout performances against experienced opposition.

“They didn't show any sign of weakness [thinking] about ‘I am a freshman—I don't know what I'm doing,’” Beguinet said. “They showed it while dueling, they showed they were confident, and everything worked for them.”

On the men’s side, junior saberist Stephen Kim led the way with eight victories, while senior captains Finn Hossfeld and Terence Lee added seven wins to Duke’s respective records in foil and saber. 

The men’s team dominated against Haverford with a 19-8 win in all three categories but fell in three consecutive bouts against No. 8 Pennsylvania, No. 5 Penn State and No. 2 Columbia. They ended the day with a close 14-13 win against Yale, in which foil and saber finished with hard-fought victories against the No. 11 team. 

Similarly, the women’s team started the day with a bang, soundly defeating Haverford 26-1 and sweeping in foil and épée. Faltering against No. 6 Penn State and No. 3 Columbia, they returned with a vengeance to best No. 12 Yale, which started its season undefeated at the Brandeis Invitational, and swept all three categories against No. 11 Temple in convincing fashion.

The competition was not only the fencing team’s first event of spring, but also its first team event of the year, bringing a “different competition spirit” than that of the fall’s Garret Penn State Open. Despite competing separately, Beguinet saw the men’s and women’s teams working “like a unit,” reflecting the camaraderie that he saw from them in their shared practices.

“It was a lot of yelling, and pushing, and happiness, and sometimes sadness. It was very good. Very, very good,” he said. “Now when they’re fencing with their own squad against the squad from the other teams, they were there and pushing, and when they were going to timeout, they were coaching … The men and women worked very well as a team.”

Overall, the competition served as a first glimpse into future competitions—Beguinet referred to it as akin to a light’s “ding!”

“What are we doing? Where are we in [relation] to the other teams? And how are the fencers behaving themselves? It was a good tryout,” he said. “Always happy to go to competition…We have a good time, and we fence well, and we fence hard.”

Duke returns to action Saturday for the Philadelphia Invitational.

Audrey Wang profile
Audrey Wang | Editor-in-Chief

Audrey Wang is a Trinity junior and editor-in-chief of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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