March 8, 2014
~Lizzie Mikes, Media Relations Assistant
DETROIT, Mich. - In historic Callihan Hall, on the Dick Vitale Basketball Court, the University of Notre Dame fencing team competed on 10 strips Saturday in search of qualifying 12 fencers for the 2014 NCAA Championships. While it is too soon to tell if the young Irish team reached their goal, the Irish did secure three No. 1 finishes in women's epee, women's foil, and men's foil.
"It was not easy for us in different weapons; we had tough bouts against Ohio State and some other schools today," Irish head coach Janusz Bednarski says. "Not everything went like we wanted, but mostly the day went well. Let's hope that during the selection process, luck will be on our side."
Bednarski is referring to the selection process he and fellow Irish coaches Gia Kvaratskhelia, Ian Farr and Cedric Loiseau will go through on Monday morning. For now, it's too soon to tell where some of their talented fencers placed in regards to at-large selections.
The first weapon of the day to finish, men's sabre saw Ohio State wrest the first and second-place spots away from Notre Dame, who finished in third and fourth. John Hallsten with the No. 1 seed was upset by Fares Arfa, 15-8 in the semifinals, while Kevin Hassett with the No. 3 seed lost a close, 15-11 bout with Arfa's Buckeye teammate Rhys Douglas. Douglas and Arfa did not hold back against one another in the final bout, with Douglas emerging victorious, 15-14.
Proving to be the most competitive and easily the closest weapon class of the day, 2010 NCAA Champion Gerek Meinhardt, 2011 Champion Ariel DeSmet and 2012 Champion Zain Shaito earned the top three seeds. Quentin Schneider of Wayne State rounded out the top four, with Irish freshmen Kristjan Archer and Hazem Khazbak earning the No. 5 and 6 seeds respectively.
DeSmet advanced over the eighth-seeded Chris Colley of Ohio State with a 15-13 win, but was ousted by Archer in a close, 15-14 victory and settled for fourth place. Meinardt and Shaito both won their round of eight bouts, with Shaito emerging victorious, 15-14, over Khazbak who finished sixth. Meinhardt out-dueled Shaito with a lopsided 15-6 score in the semifinals and came face to face with another red, white and blue facemask - that of Archer's British mask. The graduate student proved to be the master of his weapon, with an easy, 15-1 victory against his freshman squad teammate.
In men's epee, Garrett McGrath finished third behind Ohio State's Kristian Boyadzhiev and Marco de Guzman. McGrath was the only Irish men's epeeist to outright qualify, as freshman Conrad Sutter is waiting on a numbers game to see if he earns an at-large spot in the championship with his No. 6 finish.
On the sabre strips, all three of Notre Dame's sabreuses entered the round of 16, but only one continued on to the round of 8. Johanna Thill and Allison Barry ended up facing each other, with Barry emerging victorious, 15-12. Mary Regan put up a valiant effort but was out-dueled by Northwestern's Alisha Gomez-Shah, 15-6.
In the round of eight, Barry lost to Alexa Antipas, 15-6. Antipas went on to win the weapon with a 15-12 victory against Gomez-Shah.
In women's epee, juniors Nicole Ameli and Ashley Severson entered the tableau of eight with the No. 1 and 2 seeds respectively. They were joined by four epeeists from Northwestern and two from Ohio State.
Ameli with the No. 1 seed advanced over Ohio State's Rebecca Rutan, 15-5, and squared off against Severson. She contined to advance by earning a close 15-11 victory against her Irish cohort before out-touching Courtney Dumas 15-4 to clinch the weapon class. Severson faced off against Eugenia Falqui (Ohio State) and earned her third-place finish by narrowly out-touching the Buckeye femme fatale 15-14 as time expired.
In women's foil, to no one's surprise Lee Kiefer earned the No. 1 seed. Also making the round of eight was junior Madison Zeiss, who fought her way into earning the No. 4 seed. Kiefer and Zeiss both won their round of eight bouts and faced each other in the semifinals, with Kiefer advancing, 15-7. In a rematch of the 2013 NCAA Championship bout and this year's Midwest Fencing Conference women's foil title bout, Kiefer faced off against Mona Shaito of Ohio State and again emerged victorious, 15-9.
Zeiss wound up in the consolation bracket and was out-dueled by Ohio State's Alanna Goldie, 15-12, to settle for fourth place.
Stay tuned to und.com for the final roster of Notre Dame fencers who will compete in the 2014 NCAA Championships March 20-23.