UNC Fencing took home three bronze medals at their 2019-2020 opening weekend of competition on Sunday at the Temple Open in Philadelphia, PA.
On Saturday, the women’s team competed first.
Despite it being their first collegiate competition of the year, two first-years, Sophia Mandour and Abigale Parker took home bronze medals.
In the first event of the day, Mandour tied for third in women’s foil. In the same event, sophomore Aubrey Molloy also placed in the top ten, taking the number seven spot.
Later in the day, Parker also tied for third place in women’s sabre, defeating several upperclassmen along the way, including fellow Tar Heel junior Clara Somfelean, who notched eight place in the same event.
The men’s team wrapped up the weekend on Sunday, showing another good outing for the UNC fencing team.
After having no contestants finishing in the top ten in the Epee event, the UNC men took over the foil category with four fencers earning spots in the top nine, all of whom were either first-years or sophomores.
First-year Will Palazzolo tied for third place, securing UNC's third bronze medal. Following Palazzolo in the ranking were first-year Connor Head at fifth, sophomore Lucas Fernandez at eighth and sophomore James Mulligan at ninth.
"(I'm) very excited to see the team in their first competition of the season," head coach Matt Jednak said in a press release following the match. "The results are nice but it was great to see everyone staying focused on the ideas we have been working on in practice. If this is our starting point, we are looking to have an extremely competitive season."
Who stood out?
Palazzolo, Mandour and Parker all proved themselves as first-year leaders with successful starts.
Parker should continue to be a standout for the team as she earned first-team All-America honors from USA Fencing, placed third in Juniors at the 2019 Summer National Championships and won gold medals at Prep Districts and States while in high school.
When was it decided?
The UNC women were off to a fast start and the men’s team just needed to keep up.
Individual competitors across events were able to keep up with opponents and dial into the competitive season ahead. Individually, there was a well-rounded outing both days.
Why does it matter?
A solid start to the season is a huge confidence boost and helps set the tone for a new period of UNC fencing — this season will be the first time in program history that UNC will compete with a head coach that isn't Ron Miller, who retired last spring after 52 seasons with the team. Jednak was hired to replace the longtime coach this past April after serving as an assistant coach from 2009-14.
For the Tar Heels, this weekend was about gaining experience all the way around. With a first-year head coach and seven first-time collegiate fencing competitors, the focus was helping newcomers get accustomed to the new scene.
"It's all about acclimating to the college fencing scene and allowing the leaders to practice leadership skills," Jednak said. "I'm extremely pleased. If this is our starting point for the year, we've got nothing but great things to come."
With three bronze medals and multiple solid performances, the Tar Heels shook off the new season nerves quickly.
When do they play next?
The UNC fencing team will have a two-week break before returning to Philadelphia for the Elite Dual Meets, hosted by the University of Pennsylvania on Nov. 16-17.
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