Duke fencing 2023-24 season preview

Duke enters the 2023-24 season with a new coach and a talented recruiting class.
Duke enters the 2023-24 season with a new coach and a talented recruiting class.


Duke begins its 2023-24 season Saturday, with both the men and the women ranked No. 9 in the preseason poll. The fencing team ended the 2022-23 season with a ninth place finish at the NCAA Championships, their 12th top-10 finish in 13 consecutive seasons. With a new head coach and a freshman class of fencers ready to make their mark on the program, the team looks to extend this impressive streak for yet another year.

New head coach Omar Elgeziry joined the fencing team this past July, following the reign of former head coach Alex Beguinet. Beguinet announced his retirement in May after leading the fencing program for nearly forty years and the women’s and men’s teams to ACC titles in 2021. Elgeziry brings his own extensive experience as both a competitive fencer and collegiate coach to the role. He spent the past four seasons as the head coach at Air Force and most recently led its team to an 11th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.

The newest recruiting class has resulted in seven and five new fencers for the women’s and men’s teams respectively. This is in addition to the high number of fencers that will be returning from the 2022-23 season. Of the eight Blue Devils that qualified for the NCAA Championships last year, six will be back for this upcoming season. Although the Duke fencing team is on the smaller side compared to other universities, the sheer talent on the roster continues to position the Blue Devils for success.

When asked about the team’s strengths this season, Elgeziry emphasized the dynamics between fencers that has created a strong culture within the program.

“The team energy that we have is something that, in the history of the team, has created a very strong culture and a very nice dynamic,” he said. “We have a lot of talented fencers on the team, that’s another strength for us.”

The Blue Devils hope to display this very strength as they kick off their season at the Temple Open in Pennsylvania Saturday and Sunday.

New fencer to watch: Samir Travers

While Duke’s newest recruiting class boasts a whole host of talented fencers, freshman Samir Travers has the potential to greatly impact the team this season. Nearly a year ago, the Massachusetts native placed second at the December North America Cup in Junior Men's Saber. Travers brings a high level of consistency to the team with a win ratio of 70.5% on the national and international circuit combined. The freshman also has the opportunity to strengthen the men’s saber squad in the absence of reigning ACC Fencer of the Year in saber Terence Lee.

Returning fencers to watch: Christina Ferrari, Stephen Kim

With the departure of several stars since last season, the team will be depending on the guidance of returning fencers like Christina Ferrari and Stephen Kim.

Ferrari had a tremendous 2022-23 season, accumulating 10 victories during foil pool play at the ACC Championships last year before ultimately falling in the finals to Nicole Pustilnik of Notre Dame (13-15). In addition to being an ACC silver medalist, Ferrari was also named to the Fencing Coaches Association All-Region Team last season. For the second year in a row, Ferrari is a co-captain of the team, demonstrating her leadership on and off the piste.

Another team co-captain looking to finish off a spectacular career as a Blue Devil is senior Stephen Kim. The New York native led the men’s saber squad with a 28-17 overall record last season and placed fifth at the ACC Championships. His junior season, Kim was named the ACC Fencer of the Year in saber and played an integral role to the men’s squad claiming its second ACC team title in program history. Duke will hopefully get to see this gold medalist shine in his role as a first-time captain this season.

Most anticipated matchup: Duke Invitational, Feb. 10-11

Last year’s Duke Invitational delivered one of the most sensational performances of the entire season. The energy in Card Gym was electric as the then-No. 12 women's team posted a 5-0 record to close out the meet after capturing wins against top-ranked opponents like No. 1 Notre Dame (16-11) and No. 5 Northwestern (15-12).

Elgeziry recalls when he attended the meet as the head coach for Air Force.

“Every time we came to the Duke meet it was so cool,” he said. “The vibes are cool, the energy is cool — it’s very particular. So I can't wait to be in the place of running it.”

Fans of the fencing program can certainly look forward to the Blue Devils once again making an impression in front of a home crowd at the Duke Invitational this season on the weekend of Feb. 10.

Best-case scenario:

If the Blue Devils are able to start the season off with consistently strong performances, the team has the potential to qualify even more fencers to the NCAA Championships and perform well as a team. Princeton, Notre Dame and Columbia are expected to dominate both the women’s and men’s sides this season, but the Blue Devils could very well pull off an upset. With top-20 fencers in both women’s foil and men’s saber, the team may find itself near the top of the ranking list at the end of the season.

Worst-case scenario:

Elgeziry describes the biggest weakness of the team as its dedication to perfection. 

“Many of the fencers are very, very competitive and strive for perfection,” he said. “And that's something that is good, but sometimes it's not very good. Sometimes we need to accept that we're good the way we are. Nobody's perfect, in my opinion. So that's something that I want to start integrating as well. So being a perfectionist, it could be a weakness.”

If the Blue Devils fail to bounce back from occasional sub-par performances and allow setbacks to dictate their mindset going into meets, they run the risk of falling short. With so much expectation to build on their success from previous seasons, the team could lose sight of the bigger picture. Although unlikely, the team risks starting the season off on the wrong foot and falling from their secure spot in the top ten.


Share and discuss “Duke fencing 2023-24 season preview” on social media.