The UNC fencing team had its best-ever Temple Intercollegiate Open finish last weekend, earning first-place finishes in four of six weapons and, as an extra bonus, getting out of Philadelphia in time to avoid the approaching storm.
In a field that included 26 teams and totaled nearly 600 individual competitors, Tar Heel winners were Lidea Shahidi in women's epee, Joe Alter in men's foil, Sam Austin in men's sabre and Hayden Haberle in men's epee. Five other Tar Heels were finalists, finishing in the top eight: Ian Kanar was second in men's foil, Jackson Bryant-Comstock was third in men's sabre, Daniel Giles was third in men's epee, Collins Alison was seventh in men's epee and Kacie Albert was eighth in women's epee.
"Not only did we demonstrate power at the top, but we had great performances all through the field with our recruited athletes and our walk-ons, many competing in their first national event," UNC coach Ron Miller said. "But our overall performance could have been even better. In several instances in the direct elimination brackets our fencers had to fence teammates. Although this guarantees one of them advancement, it also places the other one lower without an opportunity to show what they could have accomplished against another opponent. Notable in these teammate bouts were Gordon Long (WS) and Max Tice Lewis (ME) in the round of 16, Kacie Albert (WE) in the round of eight and Jackson Bryant-Comstock (MS) in the semi-finals. Also, in at least three weapons we had strong fencers that did not compete in the event: Gill Litynski (WS), Nate Wiecha (MS), Andrew Wright (MF) and Will Woliver-Jones (MF).
"We are especially proud of our first-year walk-on athletes. All won bouts, and four of seven - Nikki Behnke (WF), Nancy Smith (WE), Kevin Rodrigues (MF) and Jake Bernstein (MF) - advanced to the second round and direct elimination bracket Three of our higher finishers are walk-ons from previous years: Gladys Manzur (WS), Aislinn Kloss (WS) and Heather Van Wallendael (WF). All of our remaining previous walk-on athletes also had competitive finishes.
"Overall, it was a great weekend for us. There's been a lot of talk about this storm, but the weekend was like the perfect storm for our team. Lots of elements came together and we had an outstanding showing at a very tough competition. I hope the success will have a carry-over effect for us as we continue on with the season and face even tougher competition this weekend."
Next up for UNC is a trip to State College, Pa., this weekend for the Penn State Collegiate Open, the second and final National Collegiate Open event of the season. Women's competition is scheduled for Saturday and men's for Sunday.