March 24, 2017
INDIANAPOLIS -- The University of Notre Dame fencing team finished off a strong first two days of the NCAA Championship at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis, on Friday. The Irish maintained first place in the team standings to keep the team national championship goal in reach.
The Irish ended the day just ahead of Ohio State on the team leader board with both teams posting 86 bout victories but with the Irish ahead in indicators 86-78. A key scoring margin was earned over third place Columbia, which has 77 team victories and the same amount of bouts remaining as the Irish when the women's competition begins on Saturday.
How It Happened
Individually, freshman Ariel Simmons provided the top highlight of the day for Notre Dame, advancing into the semifinals of the epee competition. Simmons finished the five rounds of preliminaries with a 15-8 record to earn first-team All-America honors.
Simmons faced St. John's senior Cooper Schumacher in the first semifinal on the main championship strip in the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Schumacher jumped to a 4-1 lead, but Simmons responded to even the match at 6-6 after the break. Schumacher would wrestle control of the duel by scoring on the next eight exchanges (Simmons had a matching touch on three of those scoring events) and would go on to claim the semifinal victory 15-10.
The third-place tie for Simmons caps a great rookie season for the Bellaire, Texas, native. He won the 2017 ACC Epee Championship and earned All-America honors in his first NCAA Championship appearance.
Sophomore Dylan French ended up 13th in the epee competition, finishing the five rounds of bouts with a 12-11 record.
The Irish foil duo of senior Kristjan Archer and sophomore Axel Kiefer enjoyed another solid day on the strips. Archer just missed qualifying for the semifinals, taking sixth place with a 15-8 record and improving on this 10th place finish from 2015. Kiefer was not far behind, ending up in eighth place with a 15-8 record while shaking off an ankle sprain suffered during the penultimate rotation.
In the sabre competition, the Irish were bolstered by two personal-best NCAA performances from juniors Jonah Shainberg and Jonathan Fitzgerald. Shainberg, who finished 12th in the NCAA sabre competition each of the past two seasons, ended up fifth on the leaderboard with a 15-8 record - just three touches behind St. John's Ben Natanzon for fourth place and a spot in the semifinals.
Fitzgerald continued his improvement in the NCAAs, going from 20th in 2015 to 10th in 2016 and now eighth in the 2017 field. Fitzgerald ended with a 14-9 record.
From Coach Gia Kvarataskhelia
On day two at the NCAA Championship…
“I am just very impressed with the toughness and resiliency of our student-athletes. Not one of them cracked under pressure and they really performed at the highest level possible. I cannot be happier."
On Ariel Simmons' performance...
"A freshman came in and lifting the spirit of our epee fencers. It has been a long time since we have had someone in the top four at the NCAAs (in epee) and it just speaks volumes of him and his coaches."
On five Irish fencers earning All-America honors today...
"Consistency. That has been our motto this year. Consistency and toughness. That is what we displayed today and we are very fortunate to see our kids perform at that level."
His feelings on being in first place after the end of the men's competition...
"Living the dream right now. Reputation is one thing but everyone is hitting a very high note right now. I think our women are very excited to see how well our men performed and I believe they will be ready to go tomorrow."
National Collegiate Fencing Championships
March 23-26, 2016
Indiana Farmers Coliseum
Men's Competition (March 23-24)
Foil (Final Standings)
6. Kristjan Archer (15-8), Second-Team All-American
8. Axel Kiefer (15-8), Second-Team All-American
Epee (Final Standings)
t3. Ariel Simmons (15-8), First-Team All-American
13. Dylan French (12-11)
Sabre (Final Standings)
5. Jonah Shainberg (15-8), Second-Team All-American
8. Jonathan Fitzgerald (14-9), Second-Team All-American
- Notre Dame, 86 (+86 Ind.), 138 bouts remaining
- Ohio State, 86 (+78 Ind.), 115 bouts remaining
- Columbia, 77, 138 bouts remaining
- St. John's 75, 69 bouts remaining
- Harvard 73, 138 bouts remaining
The focus will shift to the women's competition starting Saturday with rounds 1-3 of foil, epee and sabre. The foil rounds will begin at 9 a.m. ET, followed by epee at 11 a.m. and sabre at 1:30 p.m. at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
What To Watch For
- Notre Dame senior foilist Lee Kiefer will begin her quest for her fourth NCAA title, which would make her the first Notre Dame student-athlete to win four national titles in one event. According to CollegeFencing360.com, a fourth NCAA crown would also make her just the third fencer to ever win four national titles, joining NYU's Michael Lofton (1982-87) and Penn State's Olga Kalinovskaya (1993-96). Kiefer is currently the FIE No. 1 ranked senior women's foilist in the world.
- Kiefer is not the only Irish woman looking to add to her national title collection. Junior sabreuse Francesca Russo is a two-time All-American and won the 2015 NCAA Women's Sabre Championship as a freshman and will be competing for the third time in 2017.
- Also returning as All-Americans for the Irish are Kiefer's foil teammate Sabrina Massialas -- who was a first-teamer as a freshman in 2016 and finished in a tie for third place after reaching the semifinal round -- and sophomore sabreuse Tara Hassett, who finished in 12th place in 2016.