Jan. 31, 2016
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The University of Notre Dame fencing team went undefeated Sunday, posting a perfect 6-0 record in both men's and women's records. The teams finished the two-day tournament with a 12-0 record (women) and 11-1 mark (men).
"These competitions - today and yesterday - they weren't about X's and O's," Irish head coack Gia Kvaratskhelia said. "It wasn't about wins or losses. It was about the team competing, and regaining that tenaciousness and fighting attitude we used to have in terms of the fighting spirit. Results came along with that, because we're great athletes and we're motivated, but I think we want to be the most competitive at any tournament."
After having to cancel their trip to New York City for the St. John's and NYU Invitationals, Kvaratskhelia was glad to see his teams still put on dominant performaces. Says the Irish coach of missing that trip, "Missing New York, it put some pressure on us, sure. We wanted to do well and to make up four competitions in two. On top of that, we were a little rusty; so a lot of pressure was put on the kids, what with fencing at home - it was Northwestern's event, but our turf. To make up for the bouts we missed, I feel like in terms of the results, I'm very happy. We won a lot more than we lost, and that should give us an edge over other competitors in the region when it comes to regional qualifier time."
In the first round, the women's team squared off with Temple and won 16-11. Temple took five points in the epee weapon class, but the Irish won 6-3 in both foil and sabre. On the men's side, Notre Dame beat Cal Tech 22-5, notably blanking the Beavers 9-0 in sabre.
In round two, the women faced Air Force, winning 19-8 over the Falcons. The Irish won 8-1 in epee and 7-2 in sabre, but lost points to Air Force with a 5-4 loss in foil. The men's team handily beat Lawrence, 24-3, merely losing two bouts in foil and one in sabre.
The men's team had a bye in round three while the women fought valiantly against UC San Diego, emerging victorious, 17-10. The Irish clinched each weapon class, going 5-4 in epee and sabre and 7-2 in foil.
In round four, Notre Dame beat the host team Northwestern 18-9 in women's competition and ousted Detroit 22-5 in the men's competition. In epee, Catherine Lee went 3-0 while Marie-Anne Roche posted 1-2 marks and Madeline Antekeier, 2-1. On the men's side, the team went 9-0 with six different fencers in the lineup. In foil, Sabrina Massialas was undefeated at 3-0, while Elyssa Kleiner and Nicole McKee matched each other at 2-1, while in men's foil, Steffen Felt (2-0) and Spicer Emge (2-1) helped the squad reach 7-2. Women's sabre won 5-4, on the strength of Francesca Russo and Tara Hassett's 2-1 marks, and the men's squad won 6-3 (Paul Cepak 2-1, David Brown 3-0, Blake Murphy 1-2).
On the benefits of having a large roster, Kvaratskhelia stated that "Having the longer bench helps us to have a rotation; your starters can get quality rest before the really important matches. And yet, your second string can come in and still compete in important matches when you have a roster with the depth of ours. One helps the other, and at the end of the day, everyone gets experience and our starters stay fresh for the road ahead."
The women's team earned a bye in round five, and were on hand to watch the men's team best Cleveland State, 25-2. Epee went 7-2, while foil and sabre logged 9-0 records.
After a brief recess for lunch, both teams faced Penn State and were able to beat the Nittany Lions 19-8 (women's) and 17-10 (men's). Antekeier (3-0), Lee (0-2) Roche (0-3) and Clarke (0-1) fought valiantly but couldn't overcome Penn State in women's epee, leaving it to foil and sabre. Foil won handily, 8-1, with Massialas (3-0) Kleiner (2-1) and McKee (3-0) taking care of business. In sabre, the lineup of Russo (3-0), Hassett (2-1) and Kulmacz (2-1) also won, 7-2 to clinch the win for the women.
On the men's side, Darius Zacharakis went 2-1 and was followed by Garrett McGrath (3-0) and Dylan French (1-2) to beat the Nittany Lion squad 6-3. Virgile Collineau (2-1), John Crumpler (0-3) and Kristjan Archer (3-0) sealed the win 5-4 in foil, while Jonah Shainberg (3-0), John Hallsten (3-0) and Jonathan Fitzgerald (0-3) also won in sabre 6-3.
The women's team finished the day in round seven with a 24-3 win over Lawrence, while the men's team had to wait until round eight to finish with a 21-6 victory against Northwestern.
The Irish are next in action at the Duke Duals Feb. 6-7 in Durham, N.C., before returning to the Castellan Family Fencing Center to host the ACC Championships at the end of February.
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Lizzie Mikes serves as Media Services Coordinator at the University of Notre Dame. A 2013 graduate of Johnson & Wales University, she oversees credential management and is the athletic communications director for Fighting Irish men's and women's swimming and diving. She has assisted with numerous NCAA postseason events hosted by Notre Dame, and is heavily involved in the day-to-day tasks of the athletic communications office.