March 20, 2014
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The University of Notre Dame women's fencing team completed day 1 of the 2014 NCAA Championship in fifth place. Anchoring the Irish were foilists Lee Kiefer and Madison Zeiss, who stand in first and fifth place respectively.
"The first day was very tough for everybody; very equal pools and very even competition," head coach Janusz Bednarski states. "We are fighting, but it is still in the beginning.
"It will probably not all be over until the last bouts on Sunday."
Foil was the first weapon to start this morning, with Kiefer and Zeiss facing off against one another. Kiefer won, 5-4, and both of the Irish foilists finished the first round of pool play sporting 5-2 records.
Moving into the second round, Zeiss pulled off a huge upset in the first bout against Air Force's Mary McElwee. The bout stood tied, 2-2, with 14 seconds left in regulation to force a one-minute overtime. Zeiss scored the winning touch to clinch 3-2. She finished the round 2-2, while Kiefer was a perfect 4-0.
Entering round three, the final round of the day, Kiefer still only sported two losses from the first round; one, a close 5-4 loss to her sister Alex, the other, a 5-2 defeat against Caroline Mattos of Harvard in which she had weapon technical difficulties. She did not let these defeats bog her down however, as for the second round in a row she finished 4-0 to effectively clinch her No. 1 seeding with a 13-2, +41 indicator. Zeiss finished the day 11-4, +27. The Irish earned 24 points from foil alone.
Epee began around 11:00 a.m., and juniors Ashley Severson and Nicole Ameli faced steep competition right out of the gate. Ameli earned a pair of crucial wins against host Ohio State's Caroline Piasecka (5-4, OT) and Eugenia Falqui (5-2), but lost to Northwestern's Courtney Dumas and Stanford's Vivian Kong 5-4 and 5-1, respectively. After out-touching her Irish counterpart 5-3, Severson also won 5-2 against Falqui but lost to Piasecka to finish the round 3-4.
Both epeeists strived to maintain momentum in the second round, with Ameli earning an impressive 5-1 victory against Yale's Katherine Miller. Severson battled to a tough, 4-3 overtime victory versus Miller as well before out-touching Megan Floyd 5-1.
In round three, Ameli logged a 3-1 record to settle into sixth place with a 9-6 mark, while Severson was 2-2 to finish in 12th place. Ameli and Severson combined to earn 16 points for the Irish, bringing their total to 40.
Starting shortly after lunch, lone Irish sabreuse Johanna Thill dominated the first round of pool play by only allowing 20 touches against her across seven bouts. She finished with a 5-2 record after blanking Joanna Lew 5-0.
Starting in the second round, Thill fenced her way through a series of controversial bouts, many of which featured challenges and officials looking to the replay cameras stationed on the strips.
Says Bednarski, "We challenged several calls, not just us but also other teams, where there were some questions about directors' calls. The level of competition amongst these schools has definitely grown, and at this level of competition you as a coach want to make sure the right call is being made."
Thill had several key victories in the second and third rounds, most notably her 5-4 victory against Columbia/Barnhard's Sarah Yee. She finished the day with eight points to her credit, leaving the Irish with 48 points - 12 behind first place Princeton's 60.
The Irish team will look to make up ground in day two of competition, and eagerly look forward to the conclusion of the women's events tomorrow. Foil will once again start the competition, beginning at 9:00 a.m.