The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday July 7th

Lack of experience plagues UNC fencing at Penn State

A lack of mental toughness and experience continued to plague the North Carolina fencing team this weekend in State College, Pa.

The Tar Heels participated in the Penn State Invite, where the men went 1-3 and the women went 1-4 against a field that included Columbia, Penn State, Pennsylvania, Haverford and Temple. The teams' only wins came against Haverford — the men winning 17-10 and the women 20-7. 

“It was an interesting weekend for us,” Coach Ron Miller said. “We started the weekend pretty much at full strength for a change because everyone is back from study abroad and nobody had the flu.”

Although the teams had just a single win, Miller was happy with their performances but said they needed to work on consistency, which comes with experience.

“We still need to have consistency in bouts that goes to what is called 5-4, which is (when) they’re tied at four and then one touch to win,” Miller said. “It was an issue for us in November, and it continued to be an issue for us this weekend.”

Because exactly half of the teams' 34 members are freshmen and sophomores, they still lack the experience needed in certain areas to pull out close victories against top teams in the nation.

“On the women’s side the score against Penn was 11-16, but there were nine 5-4 losses,” Miller said. “So even a few of those — actually only three of them — would’ve given us the victory. It can be frustrating when you know we’re fencing well against one of the best teams in the country and still come up short just because we don’t score that final touch.”

Gillian Litynski, a senior All-American, was one of UNC's top three performers at the event, going 10-1 in women's sabre.

“I think for a lot of the girls it’s a psyche issue,” said Litynski. “A lot of them need to just have the confidence at the end to say, ‘OK, we’re against one of the best fencers in the nation, but we also are one of the best fencers in the nation.’”

While the success didn't translate to the team level, UNC was happy with several of its individual performances. The top three performers were Litynski, freshman Matthew Shlimak on the men’s side in epee and sophomore Amanda Lalezarian in foil.

Lalezarian improved her performance from last season and went 11-4 in women’s foil over the weekend.

“I think it just came from a desire to win,” Lalezarian said. “It wasn’t so much from any physical training. It was more mental preparation.”

Shlimak had a solid day during the meet and went 7-3 in men’s epee.

“I was focused but at the same time relaxed and able to execute what I wanted to do well,” Shlimak said. “And have a high level of intensity at the same time."

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