Feb. 25, 2017
DURHAM, N.C. -- The hallowed floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium did not faze the University of Notre Dame men's and women's fencing programs Saturday.
The Irish finished the first day of competition at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships with their arms full of hardware, sweeping all three women's individual weapons titles and claiming their third straight men's team championship.
How It Happened
Women's Individual Championships
For the first time, the Irish women claimed all three individual women's titles, snaring their third straight crowns in both epee and foil, but picking up their first sabre championship. Sophomore foilist Sabrina Massialas defeated senior teammate Lee Kiefer for her second straight ACC title, while sophomore epeeist Amanda Sirico and junior sabreuse Francesca Russo snatched their first individual conference titles.
The Irish placed eight fencers in the semifinals after pool play began the day -- three in foil and epee and two in sabre. Kiefer, Sirico and Russo claimed the top seed in their respective weapons -- each going undefeated during the round robin -- while Massialas, junior Claudia Kulmacz (sabre) and sophomore Madeline Antekeier (epee) were seeded second.
In the foil semifinals, Kiefer defeated Duke's Julia Lee 15-8 and Massialas upended freshman teammate Samantha Viqueira 15-6 to advance to the championship bout. Massialas -- who had fallen to Kiefer 5-0 during pool play -- took a 7-5 lead over Kiefer after the first period of the final bout and maintained the momentum after the break to repeat as conference champion.
Sirico reigned in epee. After carding a 15-0 record and out-touching opponents 75-39 in pool play, the Bowie, Maryland, product defeated fourth-seeded Irish sophomore Molly Hudson 15-9 to advance to the championship. Then, she cruised past Duke's Rita Somogyi 15-6 in the final.
Russo also dominated. The 2015 NCAA Women's Sabre Champion went 14-0 in the pools and easily scored a 15-3 victory over North Carolina's Diana Philpot in the semifinal. The junior met Duke's Lindsay Sapienza in the final, defeating the Blue Devil representative 15-7.
In addition to Notre Dame's championship and runner-up appearances, the Irish also boast three third-place finishers in Viqueria (foil), Antekeier (epee) and Kulmacz (sabre). Hudson finished in fourth place in epee, while freshman Regina O'Brien placed fifth in sabre and sophomore Elyssa Kleiner turned in a fifth-place finish in foil.
Men's Team Championship
The third-ranked Irish men claimed their third straight ACC Championship, capping the day with a thrilling performance against ninth-ranked Duke, defeating the Blue Devils 14-13.
The top-seeded Irish opened the round robin with a 21-6 victory over fourth-seeded Boston College, followed by a 24-3 win over North Carolina. But it was the final match-up against the second-seeded Blue Devils that proved most compelling as the score seesawed back and forth.
The Blue Devils won the sabre competition 7-2, but the team score stood tied at 10-10 as sabre wrapped. The Irish won the next two bouts at foil and epee, but Duke bit back to re-tie the score at 12-all. With sophomore Axel Kiefer fencing on the foil strip and classmate Dylan French on epee, Kiefer scored a key 5-1 victory to make it 13-12 before French came back from a 2-4 deficit to clinch the match and the championship for the Irish with a 5-4 win over Connor Ghazaleh.
The Irish received a lift in crowd support in the form of the Irish women's lacrosse team, which is in town to face Duke on Sunday at Koskinen Stadium.
From Coach Gia Kvarataskhelia
On winning all three women's titles...
"It's just a product of the preparation. We knew we had good athletes, but we brought them to the peak of performance for this and I'm proud of our coaches and our athletes for that."
On the performance of the men's squad against Duke...
"First of all, I want to give a shout-out to our Notre Dame women's lacrosse team. They came and really equalized the pressure and we owe them a lot. Excitement was through the roof and Duke was going to defend their turf in this legendary arena and they almost got us."
On the composure of Dylan French to clinch the match...
"Dylan was down 4-2 and miracles happen. He wanted that and he really wanted it more than anyone else. I think we really became a team (then) and I think Dylan is going to remember this moment all his life, along with all of us."
On the quality of competition in the ACC...
"We've all got great athletes; we've all got great coaches. I'd like to give a special nod to our men's epee team and coach Cedric Loiseau, who really saved the day today."
On looking ahead to Sunday...
"We're going to be ready. The girls kind of got a taste of what it's going to look like (in the team competition), so we're going to be immune to that, hopefully, and I don't think we're going to be as taken aback as we were today."
ACC Fencing Championships
February 25-26, 2016
Cameron Indoor Stadium
Women's Individual Championships
 Francesca Russo (ND) def.  Diana Philpot (UNC) 15-3
 Lindsay Sapienza (DU) def.  Claudia Kulmacz (ND) 15-11
 Francesca Russo (ND) def.  Lindsay Sapienza (DU) 15-7
 Claudia Kulmacz (ND) def.  Diana Philpot (UNC) 15-14
 Lee Kiefer (ND) def.  Julia Lee (DU) 15-8
 Sabrina Massialas (ND) def.  Samantha Viqueira (ND) 15-6
 Sabrina Massialas (ND) def.  Lee Kiefer (ND) 15-11
 Samantha Viqueira (ND) def.  Julia Lee (DU) 15-9
 Amanda Sirico (ND) def.  Molly Hudson (ND) 15-9
 Rita Somogyi (DU) def.  Madeline Antekeier (ND) 15-9
 Amanda Sirico (ND) def.  Rita Somogyi (DU) 15-6
 Madeline Antekeier (ND) def.  Molly Hudson (ND) 15-14
Men's Team Championship
No. 4 Notre Dame 21, Boston College 6
Ariel Simmons 3-0
Dylan French 2-1
Zachary Zeller 2-1
Hazem Khazbak 2-0
Kristjan Archer 2-1
Axel Kiefer 2-1
Virgile Collineau 1-0
Jonah Shainberg 2-0
Jonathan Fitzgerald 2-1
Arsenii Panteleev 1-1
Ian Jones 1-0
No. 4 Notre Dame 24, North Carolina 3
Darius Zacharakis 3-0
No. 4 Notre Dame 14, No. 9 Duke 13
The Irish will be back on the strip Sunday, when the men compete for the individual championships and the women vie for the team title. Men's individual action begins at 7 a.m. ET, with championship bouts slated for 11:30 a.m. on ACC Network Extra. The women's team championship will follow and coverage will last throughout the event.
-- ND --
Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2014 and coordinates communications efforts for the Notre Dame women's soccer, men's tennis, women's tennis and fencing programs. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in mass communication, and earned her master's degree in sports industry management from Georgetown University in 2013.