For the first time in 20 years, the North Carolina fencing team hosted rival Duke in a much anticipated rematch at the Eddie Smith Field House.
UNC’s indoor track was transformed to accommodate the long, narrow platforms and an engaged crowd.
Despite the energy of the crowd and the significance of hosting a meet against Duke, UNC could not overcome the skill of the Blue Devils.
In Friday’s bout, the Duke men won sabre 7-2, foil 5-4 and epee 5-4. Duke women won sabre 6-3, epee 7-2 and the UNC women won foil 5-4.
With the loss, the men’s team finished the season at 29-12 with the women at 20-20.
While UNC lost both the men’s and women’s meets 17-10, the rare home meet against Duke was very important to a lot of the players.
“There was a special atmosphere here today,” junior Thomas Le Guillou said.
Le Guillou bounced back from an 0-3 performance against Duke in Durham two weeks ago to a 3-0 showing on Friday.
Le Guillou took his first performance against Duke personally and he wanted to prove that he was capable of doing better.
“We knew what was wrong the first time, so we worked on it and it showed,” Le Guillou said. “We are a little disappointed with the result, but we have nothing to regret.”
One bright spot for UNC was the women’s foil team, which beat Duke for the second meet in a row. The 5-4 victory was the only UNC team to win.
The Tar Heels incurred some tough breaks en route to the loss and the team also had to go without one of its main fencers. Junior Eric Hsieh missed the meet due to a team suspension.
“There were some points at which we were simply unlucky, and we also missed having Eric,” coach Ron Miller said.
Junior co-captain Kaitlin Williamson was 3-0 and showed the consistency that UNC wants to maintain.
“Katie had another perfect day,” Miller said.
Although the regular season is now over, the postseason is about to start and UNC will meet Duke again at NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regionals.
But Miller said he still believes that UNC has the talent to compete with the Blue Devils.
“Individually, our strength is almost equal to them,” Miller said.
“I’m disappointed with the final scores but not in the overall performance … a lot of people got personal retribution.”
The team qualified 12 women and 11 men for postseason play.
Williamson knows that continuing to progress as a team with the postseason ahead will be pivotal.
“It has been really satisfying to see everyone’s energy and how much they have improved,” Williamson said. “You need a reason to keep fighting harder.”
In light of the excitement of hosting the meet, the crowd was loud from the beginning and the atmosphere was electric.
Miller hopes the team will be able to host at least one meet a year from now on.
“It was a top-five crowd that we have had,” Miller said. “Their support was very good and very much appreciated by our team.”
Contact the Sports Editor at email@example.com.