Feb. 2, 2009

 

Courtesy of North Carolina Athletics

EVANSTON, Ill. –  The North Carolina men’s and women’s fencing squads competed against some of the country’s top teams at the Northwestern Duals Saturday and Sunday, emerging with winning records and experience that should aid the team when it reaches the postseason.

The weekend’s highlight came on Saturday, when the Tar Heel women’s win over Johns Hopkins pushed coach Ron Miller to the 1,200-wins mark for his 42-year career.

“It was a very good weekend,” Miller said. “Our main focus was to try to qualify people for the NCAA regionals and we were quite successful in that.”

Miller’s record now stands at 1,206-539. He has been the head coach at UNC since the men’s team was founded in  1967-68 and also has coached the women’s team since 1971-72.

There wasn’t much lead-up to the pivotal win on Saturday, with Miller not alerting his student-athletes beforehand that the milestone was close. “I wanted them to just fence and not be thinking about that,”

he said. “Once we won the particular meet, I told them what they had accomplished. It’s just another statistic, but it’s nice to accomplish because it’s the product of effort by everyone who has been part of this program.”

"All of us in the UNC Athletic Department applaud Coach Miller and congratulate him on this milestone," said Beth Miller, Senior Associate A.D. for Olympic Sports. "He does a fantastic job with his program, not only in coaching his fencers but also in preparing them for what they go on to do beyond graduation. So much hard work has gone into each of those wins and it's great to have a landmark like this when we can pause for a moment and recognize his great success."

The men’s team, tied for 10th in the national rankings, is now 26-6 on the season. The women’s team, which is just out of the top 10 and third among other teams receiving votes, is 17-10.

Sunday, the Carolina women fell to No. 8 Temple (19-8), No. 2 Notre Dame (23-4) and No. 3 Ohio State (22-5) before coming back to beat Fairleigh Dickinson (19-8) and Lawrence (23-4). The women went 4-2 on Saturday.

After going 2-3 on Saturday with losses to the top three teams in the country, the Tar Heel men went 4-0 Sunday with wins over Detroit Mercy (20-7), Cleveland State (23-4), Wayne State (23-4) and Johns Hopkins (17-10).

“The challenge was particularly steep for the men,” Miller said.

“They started out with the top three teams in the country. It was a tough start but they fenced very well – men’s sabre beat Penn State.

“Anytime you fence top teams, any lapse in concentration can be costly, but the energy level and spirit was there throughout the weekend. It was good preparation for the postseason. It’s always good to compete in different parts of the country and see different styles of officiating and even different styles of fencing.”

Next up for the Tar Heels are the Duke Dual Meets. The men will compete Friday in Durham and the women on Saturday.