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UNC fencer Justine de Grasse ends successful season at NCAA Championships

Women's fencing ACC Championships

The North Carolina women's fencing team celebrates its 2018 ACC team title, the first in school history, on Feb. 24 in Carmichael Arena.

Women’s fencer Justine de Grasse represented North Carolina at the NCAA Fencing Championships this weekend. She was the lone Tar Heel to qualify for the meet and placed 22nd in women's epee.

Participating in the championships was a culmination of a successful season for de Grasse, who received a bronze medal at the ACC Championships in February. She said she was surprised to even be able to compete, as a miscalculation led de Grasse and head coach Ron Miller to believe she would not be included in the field.

But once she learned she would get a chance, she said it meant everything to her. 

“This is why I fence,” she said. “The feeling that something you’ve done and worked toward and finally achieved; it was such a relief.”

De Grasse won eight of her 23 bouts at the competition, landing 71 touches. She “won close, but lost big,” according to Miller, which explains her dropping to 22nd overall.

Of the eight bouts she won, four came against fencers on top-five teams. This included wins against players from Notre Dame, Columbia and Ohio State — the top three teams according to the collegefencing360.com’s women’s coaches poll. 

De Grasse said she had fenced against many of the other competitors in the field on the national and international circuits.

“It was hard," de Grasse said, "but it was nice being qualified and next to all of them.”

Despite not finishing the season as well as she would have liked, de Grasse said she gained confidence for her career going forward. 

“It was a hard event," she said. "But I was one of (the competitors), so I definitely feel I can belong in the category of top players."

While she was the only Tar Heel fencer to qualify for the championships, de Grasse was not alone in her preparation. She said her teammates' support played a large role in her preparation for this weekend. 

“The boys came in and trained with me to help me prepare," she said. "They were helpful with my schedule, meeting up whenever I could and getting a little bit of practice in before we left."

Miller said de Grasse’s performance was consistent with what she had shown throughout the year. 

“She fenced exceptionally well against the better people in the field, and then had difficulty with some of the people that were not so good," Miller said. "And that’s actually very typical for her."   

De Grasse’s bid to the championship field marked the 51st consecutive year UNC has been represented in the competition. She capped off arguably the most successful season in UNC women’s fencing history — a team that finished 24th in the NCAAs with a 29-13 record.

@tommyfradenburg

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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