Another long weekend with a mix of challenges and improvements!
The UNC fencing team traveled first to Temple for five (men's) and 6 (women's) meets on Saturday and then on to NYU for six more for the men on Sunday. Saturday's meets provided more wins, but Sunday's provided some much needed improvements for the men against outstanding competition.
On Saturday the men's team had wins against Haverford, Drew and NJIT and narrow losses to Johns Hopkins and Sacred Heart. The women, led by an undefeated women's epee squad, were 4-2. Their wins were against Johns Hopkins, Drew, NJIT and FDU. With two starters missing in women's sabre and some close individual losses in the other squads, the women lost to Sacred Heart and Cornell. Despite these losses, the foil squad showed marked improvement on the day and our less-experienced alternates in sabre had a good day.
Sunday's men's matches were very tough early against No. 7 Columbia, No. 12 Yale, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 1 Ohio State. Our men's sabre squad was up to the challenge with a 6/3 win against Yale and a 7/2 win against OSU. Our other squads did not fare as well as a whole, but there were some bright spots individually. Men's foil with starter Ian Kanar out for the balance of the season and senior captain Joe Alter hampered with a foot injury (but still competing) managed important individual wins in every match. Harry Adams had two wins against Notre Dame and Alex Burte had key victories late in several matches. The team finished the day with a win against Wayne State and an always intense and close win against host NYU.
On the weekend our top individual performers continued to help their chances for the post season with solid records. The women were led by our top four in women's epee: Kacie Albert 13/1, Lidea Shahidi 13/3, Allie Mead 10/3 and freshman Kelley Hamill 9/0. Acting captain Gill Litynski was 9/3, and did not compete against two of the teams to give her less-experienced teammates much needed bout experience. Maura Thornton was 7/3 and Aislinn Kloss was 9/7 for sabre. Wynton Wong, Heather Van Wallendael and Jenna Rodrigues all had improved records in women's foil with key victories in every team win. For the men Sam Austin was 22/5, Jon Blake 11/5, Nate Wiecha 13/9, Jackson Bryant-Comstock 11/9 and freshman Gordon Long 8/6 to power men's sabre. Joe Alter was 18/12 in foil, and Max Tice-Lewis 16/14 and Hayden Haberle 14/12 had strong performances in epee.
The weekend was two days of coming to grips with each gender still not able to compete at full strength due to injuries and missing starters. A positive is that we gained experience and confidence in the depth of our squads. Every week someone new - or, in the case of this weekend, many less experienced members of our team - stepped up in a big way.
Next weekend it is on to Chicago for the Northwestern Duals and 10 (men) or 12 (women) more meets for our team. The strength of our schedule and our continued improvement has earned us rankings of No. 13 (men) and No. 16 (women) in the latest coaches' poll. Our goal is top 10 for both. If we can keep improving every week, that goal is not out of reach. Three of our six weapons squads are already performing at that level and the others are still improving. We have something to prove in Chicago.
– UNC fencing coach Ron Miller