The North Carolina women’s fencing team experienced mixed results at the Temple Open in Philadelphia on Saturday.
In what was many of the team’s first competition the season, the Tar Heels looked to get off to a good start. Women’s foil was the first competition on the docket with four Tar Heels qualifying for the knockout rounds. Junior Tarleton Hunt and first-years first years Ella Webb and Katie McGillion-Moore all advanced to the table of 32 before being eliminated.
Women’s épée was the next competition with four more fighters for the Tar Heels. All four, junior Erica Oake, sophomore Isabella Summers, and first-years Nicole Milewski and Lauren Banks, all won their first fights. It was Milewski who shined in the event, finishing in 10th and advancing all the way to the table of 16.
The final event of the day was women’s saber, which saw four more Tar Heel fighters. Sophomores Iman Tucker and Maya Yun both won their first-round matchups. Sophomore Sophia Kovacs, however, was the highest-placing Tar Heel of the day, with a bronze, backing up a silver she claimed earlier this month in the October North American Cup.
Who stood out?
Only one Tar Heel found the podium, Sophia Kovacs. Kovacs, a transfer, was a person of interest for head coach Matt Jednak coming into the season. Through her two tournaments for UNC, all she has done is place.
By the time of her event, it was already a disappointing day for the Tar Heels with no one placing to that point. The best finish was Nicole Milewski’s 10th in women’s épée. As the number two seed, Kovacs was awarded a bye. She then made quick work of her first two opponents beating Penn State’s Ola Strzalkowski, 15-8, and Long Island University’s Chejsa-Kaili Seck, 15-6.
This led to a matchup with Northwestern’s No. 4 Megumi Oishi that nearly pushed Kovacs to the brink, but Kovacs held on to win 15-14. The stage was set for a semi-final between the two women seeded number two, Columbia’s Chloe Gouhin and UNC’s Sophia Kovacs. Gouhin, who would go on to win the tournament, got the better of Kovacs, defeating her 15-12.
Kovacs can hang her head high as the only Tar Heel to leave with a medal around her neck.
When was it decided?
In most of the tournaments, the Tar Heel fighters were eliminated by the table of 32. There were just two exceptions, when first-year Nicole Milewski finished 10th in women’s épée and sophomore Sophia Kovacs earned bronze in women’s saber.
Why does it matter?
Through two events, the youth of the team has stepped up. This is a promising sign for the captains of the team, especially women’s foil captain Sarah Followill, who has talked about boosting the younger members of the team.
The team is also filled with proven veteran talent including senior Sophia Mandour who finished 15th at the 2022 NCAA Championships. With the youngsters continuing to progress and blossom, the women’s team could find more competitors place in ACC and NCAA tournaments upcoming in 2023.
When do they play next?
The women will be back in action in the Western Invitational on Nov. 5 and 6 in Colorado.
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