No. 9 Duke fencing opens season at Temple Open with strong showings from Ferrari, Marakov

The Duke fencing women's team notched four top-three finishes at the Temple Open.
The Duke fencing women's team notched four top-three finishes at the Temple Open.

Duke kicked off its 2023-24 season this weekend at the Temple Open in Philadelphia, with both the men’s and the women’s teams entered the tournament ranked No. 9 in the nation. This weekend saw particularly impressive showings from the newest additions to the teams, as well as senior captain Christina Ferrari.

Prior to her final matchup, Ferrari seemed to breeze through the competition. Coming into the tournament as the No. 1-seed, the New York native bypassed the round of 64 and easily defeated Madelyn Zamelis of New York University 15-2 in her first bout on Saturday. Ferrari followed this up with two dominating performances in the quarterfinals and semifinals to book her ticket to the championship bout. It was in this last matchup against No. 6-seed Sabrina Cho of Penn that Ferrari faced a true challenge. Fighting for each and every point, the senior was ultimately able to come out on top of the 15-13 score and be crowned the champion of the women’s foil event. While this result does not come as a surprise for the 2022 ACC individual bronze medalist, it does further cement Ferrari’s place as a cornerstone of the Duke fencing program.

This weekend was the first of many tournaments for the team’s newest Blue Devils. That said, their inexperience on the collegiate level didn’t seem to matter. Freshman Vanessa Lin entered as the No. 4-seed in women’s epee and went on to compete against fencers far her senior. After advancing to the quarterfinals on a 15-5 defeat of Johns Hopkins’ No. 20-seed Katelyn McShine, Lin went on to face the No. 5-seed Victoria Kuznetsov of Penn and extended her win streak even further. It was in only the finals that the freshman fell to No. 2-seed Jaclyn Khrol of Penn State 15-8. Lin’s ability to not only challenge, but also defeat more experienced fencers shows immense potential for her ability to contribute to the team moving forward.

Breakout performances seemed to be the norm this weekend with freshman Natalie Olsen also making a statement in women’s saber. Olsen entered the tournament as the No. 11-seed, but did not let this number limit her. The Bethesda, Md., native pulled off several upsets Saturday, starting with her 15-6 win against No. 6-seed Aurora Colter of Penn State. While one could dismiss this victory as beginner’s luck, Olsen proved she was no one-hit wonder as she battled past Penn’s No. 7-seed Hailey Lu 15-13 in the semifinals to advance to the title match. Although unable to take home the gold, Olsen showcased a tremendous ability to overcome the odds that bodes well for the future of her career as a Blue Devil.

On the men’s side, junior Allen Marakov persevered through a series of close matches to take home the silver in the epee bracket. Marakov, seeded No. 12, most notably defeated No. 8-seed Avery Townsend of Penn with a score of 15-9 to reach the finals. The junior then fell to Johns Hopkins’ No. 7-seed Ethan Insler to end the tournament in second place. Freshman Samir Travers tied for third in men’s saber, an impressive result for the new Blue Devil that did not seem phased by the bright lights of his first collegiate tournament. Travers’ semifinal run followed captain Stephen Kim’s withdrawal from the round of 32 for medical reasons.

With several tremendous freshmen debuts and promising performances from upperclassmen, the program is already starting to find its footing under new head coach Omar Elgeziry. Looking ahead, the Blue Devils will compete next on Nov. 19 at the Elite Invitational in Columbus, Ohio.


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