After 52 years with Ron Miller at the helm, the UNC fencing team has a new head coach.
Matt Jednak, a former UNC fencer and assistant coach, has been tapped as Miller's replacement next season, becoming only the second head coach in program history, according to a release from the UNC athletic department on Thursday evening. Jednak was introduced to his new team on Thursday afternoon during a team meeting.
“I am honored to lead a program that means so much to me,” Jednak said, according to a statement from GoHeels. “I have so much respect for Coach Miller – he’s an icon in the world of fencing – and I look forward to carrying on the proud tradition that he created and fostered at UNC. Carolina Fencing has come to mean success in the classroom, on the strip and in life. I experienced that as a student-athlete and as an assistant coach, and I will work hard to carry that forward for current and future Tar Heels.”
The outgoing Miller came to UNC in 1967 and started the fencing program, then coached the program for 52 years through the end of the 2019 season. After the 2017-18 season, he decided to hang it up, but later decided to stay on for one final year as the Tar Heels looked for his replacement.
“Although I was ready to retire last year, this year allowed different opportunities,” Miller said in a statement. “We had a large group of incoming freshmen, so to help them adapt to college life and the team program was gratifying, and I also appreciated being able to finish up with this year’s seniors."
During his time at UNC, Miller amassed a 1,603-900 record, and he most recently led the women's fencing team to its first ACC Championship in 2018. Now, he'll get to retire with one of his former players taking over for him.
"Matt's knowledge, experience as a Carolina student-athlete and assistant coach and dedication to providing a great experience for our students make him the ideal person to lead this program,'' athletic director Bubba Cunningham said. "Carolina Fencing is unique because we've had one extremely successful head coach in its 52-year history – and we need a leader who will embrace the tradition of the program while also finding new ways to move it forward."
"We are confident Matt is that person, and we are pleased to have him join our phenomenal group of Carolina head coaches," Cunningham said.
Jednak was a three-year letter winner on the men's epee squad and graduated from UNC in 2009 with a degree in mathematical decision sciences. After serving as an assistant from 2009-2014, he started his own accounting and tax firm, which he has managed along with coaching the North Carolina Fencing Development Program and with Apex Fencing Academy in the time since.
"My coaching philosophy develops student-athletes and staff into confident leaders and forges strong bonds with parents and alumni, while my passion and emotional energy create an environment that cultivates the highest levels of success," Jednak said. "This is an unbelievable opportunity for me, and I can't wait to get started."
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