Coming off an impressive 2023, No. 9 Duke opened 2024 this weekend at the Philadelphia Invitational. Freshmen Victoria Gorman and Dayaal Singh led the win count for the team with 19 and 15 victories respectively. The Blue Devils finished the tournament 10-2 on the women’s side and 6-4 on the men’s to start the new year on the right foot.
“It was a fantastic week for us,” said head coach Omar Elgeziry. “We showcased our strengths and revealed our grit. I'm very, very proud and happy that we took a shot on that event. It was a very, very good meet for us.”
The women’s foil team delivered a dominant performance with all five fencers coming away with winning records. Co-captain and senior Christina Ferrari picked up right where she left off with a total of 18 victories this weekend. This follows her 10-4 record at the Elite Invitational and individual title in women’s foil at the Temple Open in November. Freshman Sophia Shen also had an impressive start to the season, going 15-3 this weekend. After landing the final hit in a particularly competitive bout Saturday, Shen let out a scream as the entire team crowded around her in celebration.
Another freshman with a strong showing over the weekend was Massachusetts-native Gorman, who finished with a 19-5 record. Gorman and fellow freshman Natalie Olsen’s efforts in saber allowed the women’s team to defeat No. 1 Princeton 16-11. This victory was especially sweet since the team’s last loss of 2023 was to the Tiger women (14-13) at the Elite Invitational.
“We were coming in very prepared for a lot of strong schools,” Elgeziry said about what changed between then and this weekend. “Princeton, of course, we were going in knowing that we lost to them. From the beginning, we were focused and prepared. I think the women were very, very focused and the energy was very, very high. They didn't allow any stress to get to their nerves.”
This weekend also marked a milestone for the men’s team that came away with a winning record, a feat they were unable to pull off in November. In particular, the foil team’s 5-4 record against No. 7 Penn made all the difference in tipping the final 14-13 score in Duke’s favor. The team as a whole also secured wins against Wagner, Drew, and Sacred Heart.
“On the men’s side, we are also building and we're slowly moving in the right direction,” Elgeziry said. “There were a couple of matches that slipped out of our hands. We’ll increase the focus and make sure that we don't make the same mistake twice.”
It became evident over the course of the weekend that both the men and the women’s team have made great strides since their last meet. If the trajectory of the team continues, the Blue Devils will be in the perfect position to take home the ACC title come February.
The Blue Devils will compete again Friday in Cambridge, Mass., against Harvard. Even after this strong start to their season, the team is cautious not to get too ahead of themselves.
“We have to stay focused all the way,” Elgeziry said. “If we make a mistake, we need to make sure not to repeat the mistake and just to look forward, keep fighting and keep looking at our goals.”
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