4 UNC fencers head to NCAA Tournament
Although the North Carolina fencing team qualified four fencers for the NCAA Championships in San Antonio, Texas, this weekend, sophomore Gill Litynski will travel alone.
The men departed Wednesday morning as their tournament began Thursday and will end today, but Litynski will stay in Chapel Hill a bit longer until the women’s tournament kicks off on Saturday.
Litynski, a sabre fencer, is the sole female qualifier for UNC. The men’s squad qualified senior Joe Alter of the foil squad and two from the sabre squad — junior Sam Austin and senior Jackson Bryant-Comstock.
“Gill should finish top eight, potentially top four if she’s fencing well,” assistant coach Josh Webb said. “Sam and Jackson peaked at the right time. Joe’s left-handed, which is an advantage. He’s also a little weird, which is an advantage.”
Litynski is excited to represent her squad.
“As the only female UNC fencer going, I want to make sure I get my name out there and finish high enough to represent the whole school,” Litynski said.
Webb said the four make up one of the most complete groups that UNC has sent in the past few years. While Webb expects the male contingent to perform well, he expects particularly high results from Litynski, expectations the sophomore believes she can live up to.
“In order to win the championship, I would have to have a pretty good day, but it’s definitely not out of my range of capabilities,” she said.
Litynski has the advantage of experience at the NCAA Championships, having qualified her freshman year. Alter is returning for his second trip, but the first since his sophomore year.
“They know how to pace themselves,” Webb said. “They understand that it’s a tournament that ebbs and flows. They’re not going to be overwhelmed.”
Though Bryant-Comstock is excited to be at the tournament, he said he isn’t satisfied with just making it.
“Even though it’s an honor to be here, I do expect to do well,” Bryant-Comstock said. “The biggest thing for me is approach it like any other meet. I’ve beaten these guys before, so it’s not an insurmountable task.”
As a newcomer to the tournament, Bryant-Comstock said he’s comforted by having his teammates with him to provide support and encouragement.
But Litynski won’t have that luxury, and she admits she’s a little nervous.
“When I’m out there, I’m alone,” she said. “I have to remember to stay focused and know there are people supporting me from home.”
Webb said the key for Litynski will be her focus.
“Every once in a while, she’ll fade off for a touch or two,” Webb said. “This week, she’s been very sharp in what she wants to do. Of the four, she’s probably got the best chance.”
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