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Fencing: Soberiaj leads ND into Duke Duals

Retter, Eric | Friday, February 11, 2005

As their season draws closer to the end, the Irish are looking to finish strong in the Duke Duals this weekend in Durham, N.C.

The Irish, who are No. 2 in the women’s polls and No. 4 in the men’s, will compete in an event that will run all day today and Saturday. This event, which is the last match of the regular season for the team, features no teams from the Midwest conference. Therefore, postseason implications will not be as crucial as they have been in the past.

The team will be led by a host of talented fencers, most notably senior men’s epeeist and three-time All-American Michal Soberiaj, who has compiled a 55-2 record this season. As of now, his .965 win percentage for the season should shatter the standing men’s epee record of .938. Further, he ranks eighth in all-time wins by a men’s fencer and is just two wins shy of matching the men’s epee record for wins in a single season.

He has the opportunity to eclipse that mark, as North Carolina, Air Force, Johns Hopkins and Stanford are all joining the Irish and the Blue Devils in competition.

Unlike last weekend, when many backups saw a majority of the action at the Ohio State Duals, the Irish will use most of their top fencers at Duke, both in an effort to tune them up in the final event of the season as well as compete against quality opponents. Stanford and Air Force are No. 9 and No. 10, respectively, according to the Jan. 20 national men’s poll. Further, both Duke and North Carolina received top 10 votes in the men’s and women’s polls.

However, the Irish will be missing two key members for the duration of the weekend. Senior women’s epee captain Kerry Walton and sophomore epee standout Amy Orlando will not be at the event, as they will be competing in international tournaments that could assist them in qualifying for the World Championships.

Nevertheless, the Irish hope to do just fine without them this weekend.