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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC fencers struggle at North American Cup

The North Carolina fencing team competed in the 2017 North American Cup in Columbus, Ohio, this week. In a tournament that spanned four days, no Tar Heel advanced past the round of 16.

What happened?

Competition began Friday morning, with three Tar Heels competing. Senior Sarah Hanvy and first-year Jackie Litynski participated in women’s saber. They both qualified for the tournament, but Litynski lost a close 15-14 bout in the first round and Hanvy lost in the second round.

First-year Justine de Grasse struggled in junior women’s epee. She lost 15-13 in the first round of the tournament and finished ranked 76th out of 144 fencers.

Seven more Tar Heels fenced Saturday. First-year Jacob Henkels didn’t qualify for the men’s epee tournament, and no UNC fencer advanced past the first round of the women’s foil tournament, even though three competed. 

North Carolina’s best event was junior men’s saber on Saturday. All three Tar Heels that competed advanced into the tournament and sophomore Matthew Garrelick fought his way to the round of 16 before losing, 15-8. 

Garrelick finished the event ranked 16th. Fellow sophomore Connor Ritchey joined Garrelick within the top 25 ­— he lost in the round of 32 and finished the event ranked No. 24.

On Monday, Henkels improved with a No. 94 finish in junior men’s epee. First-years Wei Chee Chen and Carlexa Fevry both competed in junior women’s foil but neither advanced past the first round of the tournament.

After succeeding in junior men’s saber, North Carolina disappointed in the real saber event. Garrelick was UNC’s top fencer, winning just one tournament bout and finishing with a No. 97 ranking.

Who stood out?

In a tournament that focused on individual play, North Carolina’s saber fencers showed promise. Sophomores Garrelick and Ritchey had the two best final rankings of any UNC fencer — Nos. 16 and 24, respectively.

Garrelick received a first-round bye in junior men’s saber. He won four bouts before losing to tournament runner-up Erwin Cai of Harvard University.

Senior Sarah Hanvy advanced to the second round of women’s saber and earned a No. 63 ranking.

When was it decided?

The Tar Heels needed a strong showing in Monday’s events to walk away from the NAC with decent success. North Carolina didn’t have the day it wanted — no fencers advanced farther than the first round of their tournaments.

Why does it matter?

Although UNC struggled during the NAC, young talent emerged. Besides senior Sarah Hanvy, all of the Tar Heel fencers that competed were either first-years or sophomores.

Playing in large, competitive pools, most of these fencers advanced into the tournament round. In his 50th season as the UNC fencing head coach, Ron Miller will look to develop these improving Tar Heels as the season progresses.

When do they play next?

The team now travels to State College, Pennsylvania, to compete in the Penn State Dual Meets. The women will compete Saturday, while the men will compete Sunday.

@chapelfowler

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