North Carolina’s fencing team placed first in four out of six categories, including a sweep of the men’s events, at the Temple Intercollegiate Open in Philadelphia on Sunday.
Taking the top honors were sophomore Lidea Shahidi in the women’s epee, senior Joe Alter in the men’s foil, junior Sam Austin in the men’s saber and junior Hayden Haberle in men’s epee.
UNC had five other finalists including Ian Kanar, who was runner up in the men’s foil, Jackson Bryant-Comstock who was third in the men’s sabre. Daniel Giles and Collins Alison were both finalists in the men’s epee and Kacie Albert was a finalist in the women’s epee.
“(The whole team) did a great job – from the walk-ons and first-year team to the starters and more experienced fencers,” assistant coach Matt Jednak said. “It was just a really, really good weekend for the team – I was very pleased.”
In fencing, the three categories – epee, saber and foil – differ based on the type of weapon used and the target area for contact. Whereas foil awards points for any contact, epee and saber require a depressed tip of the blade for points. Epee contact can be anywhere, saber contact must be above the waist and foil contact only includes the torso.
The open included 26 varsity programs, including perennial powerhouse and 2010 National Champion Penn State, and over 600 competitors.
Haberle mentioned Cornell, NYU and Johns Hopkins as some of the other typically strong fencing programs that came to the competition.
“(The four top finishers) all put in an amazing amount of work for the season already,” Jednak said.
With a lot of beginners as well as experienced fencers in the draw, Jednak said the challenge for the fencers was to be mentally focused but also physically ready.
While the fencing team fared well, it could have been even better had the fencers gotten some different draws in the tournament.
“It’s really unfortunate that a lot of our fencers had to fence each other,” Shahidi said. “Jackson (Bryant-Comstock) tied for third in men’s sabre, but he was knocked out by Sam Austin. He probably could’ve won (men’s sabre) if not for that.”
Jednak shared similar sentiments with Shahidi about the luck of the draw. He said there were four matchups between UNC fencers from the round of sixteen onward.
The open was the first competition for the fencing team this year, and the first action for the freshmen and walk-ons. While it is mostly an exhibition and doesn’t mean much for the season, the open acts as a good way to measure the team in live action, or set the tone for the rest of the year as Jednak said.
The style of the open also differentiates it from competitions in the regular season. The open was an individual tournament, whereas the regular season bouts will be team-based with team victories being determined from individual outcomes.
“Everyone has focused as a squad to push each other,” Jednak said. “They’re putting forth the effort, and when it’s time to practice they get down to it.”
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