The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday June 29th

Gillian Litynski ends UNC fencing career with strong NCAA finish

Gillian Litynski has always been an advocate for her teammates.

But as the lone representative from the North Carolina fencing team, Litynski — competing in her fourth NCAA Championships in as many years — knew the task was solely in her hands to step up as the leading force for her team.

It always has been.

In the final bouts of her acclaimed UNC career, the two-time All-American finished sixth in the tournament for women’s sabre, falling seven touches shy of a berth in the final four on Sunday.

“I was thinking, ‘This is it, this is your last one!’” said the sabre co-captain. “I felt the senior pressure, I definitely did.”

But despite the pressure to repeat her past tournament results — when she finished 18th, third and eighth, respectively — Coach Ron Miller praised Litynski’s work ethic in allowing her to maintain success.

“Consistency is one of the hardest thing to have (in fencing),” Miller said. “Especially in the weapon that she fences because refereeing is so subjective.”

It was this subjectivity that often proved frustrating for the ACC Women's Sabre Fencer of the Year, who needed just one win to secure a place in the final four.

“There were a couple bad calls made throughout the day, and one of them was in a 5-4 bout,” Litynski said. “The girl actually came up and apologized to me afterwards because she knew it was supposed to be mine.

“It was frustrating how close I was.”

But even with the questionable nature of the results, the first-ever ACC sabre champion focused only on what she could control.

“Some handle it better than others, and Gillian is a class act,” said Miller, lauding the senior’s composure. “You never question whether she’s going to put it all on the line when she’s out there.”

This commitment to her teammates is evident on the fencing strip, so it’s only fitting that she would remain dedicated to her team beyond her UNC career. 

As she pursues her post-graduate education in nursing, Lytinsky will serve as a student-assistant next season, continuing her presence with the women's sabre team. 

“Having a women’s presence on the team on the coaching side of things will be very good for the girls,” Lytinski said. “I’m hoping that I can be more of an advocate for the women on the team.”

Though her fencing acumen will be hard to match, her role in a coaching capacity will provide continuity for the Tar Heels’ young fencing squad.

“We don’t have to completely move on,” said Miller, who won ACC Women’s Coach of the Year thanks in part to Litynski’s strong season. “Gill’s very important in the past, present and future of the program.”

For as much as Litynski has provided for the program, the senior feels honored for what UNC has reciprocated.

“I have absolutely loved the support from the athletics department,” Litynski said. “They’ve always appreciated what I’m doing.

“I really made the right choice in being a Tar Heel.”

And after four accomplished seasons in Chapel Hill, Litynski will go down as one of the greatest the women’s fencing team has ever seen.

“Total package, leadership, example in practice, results, everything,” Miller said. “Gill far and away is probably the best.”

“I’ve been honored to have an opportunity to work with her.”

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