Fencers prepare for trip to Durham

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Sam Austin is, like the rest of the Tar Heel fencers, looking for his first victory against Duke this weekend.

This weekend, members of the North Carolina fencing team have an opportunity that most Tar Heels can only dream of — fighting a Blue Devil.

The two teams will square off for their annual dual match this weekend in Durham, and coach Ron Miller knows what the historic rivalry series means to his program.

“We look forward to it all year,” Miller said. “It’s probably the highlight of our season. This will be around the 93rd or 94th time we’ll meet them, and this year our teams are pretty evenly matched, so we are looking forward to a strong competition.”

Although the Tar Heels hold a heavy lead in the all-time series, Duke has had recent success against UNC. No Tar Heel on the current roster has defeated the Blue Devils.

This weekend presents UNC’s first and only chance to break the streak this season.

To say junior Kacie Albert is fired up about that opportunity may be an understatement.

“I really think the women’s team has an amazing chance to beat Duke this year,” Albert said. “Beating Duke in their own home gym is even sweeter. It really goes to show that we’re Carolina, you know what we’re about, and we’re here to beat you.”

The fencing squad will walk directly past Cameron Indoor stadium and the infamous Krzyzewskiville as they make their way to the meet.

Albert said her emotions crescendo as she steps inside Card Gym.

“It’s a certain feeling when you walk in the gym,” Albert said. “Your school pride really is overwhelming, and there’s just all this Duke stuff everywhere, and you just want to beat Duke.”

A single dual match consists of 27 fights, nine for each weapon squad — foil, epee, and sabre. For the Tar Heels to take at least 14 for the victory, they’ll need to harness their emotion into consistent performances in all three disciplines, Miller said.

“All year long, we’ve had every weapon squad have a great day,” Miller said. “But it’s been rare that through a whole day, every weapon squad has had a consistent performance.”

Junior Sam Austin said he knows his team will need some intense willpower to outlast the Blue Devils.

“It’s going to be all about focus, because we definitely have the team to beat them,” Austin said. “I feel our team is much stronger than them, so we just have to stay focused the entire time we’re there.”

Miller believes this year’s team is primed and ready to take down its hated rivals and re-take its position as the leader in the storied rivalry.

“They rarely, in recent history, respect us the way they do some of the other teams,” Miller said. “But anytime you have any sport competing Carolina-Duke, its always a toss up, and this year in particular, we’re ready.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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