Though he is better at sabre, Philpot was forced to switch weapons to accommodate the team’s needs and fenced foil in last year’s tournament, .
“Our team wasn’t very strong in foil last year, whereas we had a really good sabreist team,” he said. “I knew I could have done well in sabre, but in order to win dual meets we need to have enough wins across all three weapons, so I switched over to foil.”
Senior Gill Litynski, who finished second in sabre on the women’s side, was excited to see Philpot back with his natural weapon.
“He’s a slightly stronger men’s sabreist, but last year we had a lot of really strong men sabreists who were all seniors,” she said. “Having him come back to sabre this year and see what he can do is really fun to watch.”
Sophomore Mason Erb, who finished tied for third in men’s sabre, was also glad to see his longtime best friend competing alongside him once again.
The only problem came when they were pitted against each other.
As was the case with many UNC teammates during the weekend’s event, Erb and Philpot were forced to compete against one another in the semifinals, a bout all too familiar to both of them.
“We’ve known each other since we started fencing, we’ve fenced each other hundreds of times in the past,” said Philpot, who ended up winning the battle. “It was incredibly frustrating.”
Erb, who was forced to eliminate another teammate the match prior, was equally disappointed with the way the draw played out.
“The whole point of the tournament is to get competition experience and fence new people,” he said. “So it kind of stinks when you have to fence someone who you see everyday in practice.”
Though most of the fellow fencers are supposed to remain impartial when teammates compete, Philpot had one clear supporter within the team: his sister Diana.
“They’re really good at cheering each other on,” said Litynski. “As teammates ran into each other, you could see in their eyes that they were still cheering for each other, even though technically when teammates run into each other you don’t cheer. So that was kinda cute to watch.”
The siblings’ relationship goes beyond the bond of family.
“We’ve always been teammates, even before college,” Philpot said. “We fenced together (growing up), so we’re very used to it. We do everything together, we’re just so close in age that it’s just like having another friend there.”
Coach Ron Miller was grateful to secure the abilities of the local products.
“We were very happy to get both of them because they’re both Chapel Hill kids,” Miller said. “They both fenced in our own club and another local club. They both have developed quite well on the national scene.”
With the young talent performing so well early in the year, Miller has high expectations for what this team can achieve.
“It’s hard to tell about consistency,” he said. “But I think we have the ability to compete with anyone.”