March 25, 2007
By Pete LaFleur and Greg Touney
MADISON, N.J. - Epeeist Kelley Hurley's runner-up finish led three Irish women's fencers who reached Sunday's semifinal/medal round while Notre Dame finished fourth in the overall standings at the 2007 NCAA Men's and Women's Combined Fencing Championships, with 160 points. Senior sabreist Valerie Providenza reached the semifinal round for the third time in her career, finishing fourth, while Adi Nott placed third in the women's foil medal round for her second All-America honor.
It marks the 14th straight year that the Irish have finished in the top-four and Notre Dame was the highest 2007 finisher among teams that did not have the full allotment of 12 fencers. Penn State (194 points) won the title, followed by St. John's (176) and Columbia (169), while the Irish finished in front of the other two teams with 11 entrants (Ohio State, 144, and defending champion Harvard, 123). The Irish actually finished with eight more wins than at the 2006 NCAAs (152), when Notre Dame also was fourth but had the full team of 12 fencers. Notre Dame senior Patrick Ghattas earlier had reached the men's sabre final, giving Notre Dame a total of four semifinalists to rank behind only the championship squad from Penn State (6; with Columbia, SJU and Wayne State each having three in the medal round).
(Note: this recap now includes quotes, photos, bout details and historical notes; a similar overview recap from the NCAAs for the ND men is forthcoming on und.com; also look for photo galleries from the NCAAs and earlier ND fending events, time permitting, to be posted later this week on und.com.)
See the following HTML link for complete team and individual standings (including individual bout matrixes and medal-round brackets):
Nott's fellow sophomore foilist Emilie Prot narrowly missed her own top-12 All-America designation, after tying for 11th (11-12 in the round-robin) but placing 14th based on total-point indicators. Her classmate Ashley Serrette (16th; 9-14) rounded out Notre Dame's competitors, as an entrant in the sabre bouts.
Notre Dame placed fencers into the medal round of all three women's weapons for the third time (also '04 and '05) and remains the only school ever to have finalists in all three women's weapons at the same NCAAs ('04 and '05). Since 2000 - when women's sabre made its NCAA debut - a team has placed fencers into the medal round of all three women's weapons a total of just six times (three by ND, two by St. John's and Penn State in '06).
Hurley finished second in the round-robin stage with an 18-5 record before beating Reka Szele of St. John's in the semifinals (15-10) and losing a classic battle with Wayne State's Anna Garina (13-15), who won her third career NCAA title to go along with a runner-up finish in 2006. Hurley nearly duplicated her win over Garina from two weeks ago, in the semifinals of the NCAA Midwest Regional (15-14).
Nott was third in the foil round-robin (18-5) before losing to Monika Golebiewski of St. John's in a 15-3 semifinal, followed by an overtime showdown with Penn State's Tamara Najm in the third-place bout (won by Nott, 9-8).
Providenza - the first Notre Dame women's sabre fencer to be a four-time All-American (she also won the '04 title, was 4th in '05 and took 9th in '06) - had a strong second-place run through the round-robin (19-3) before a pair of near-misses, losing to Columbia Daria Schneider in the semifinals (14-15) and Columbia's Emily Jacobson (13-15). Schneider went on to win the NCAA title, previously won in 2005 by Jacobson (who lost the '06 title bout to ND's Mariel Zagunis, currently on a leave of absence from collegiate fencing as she prepares for 2008 Olympic qualifying).
SUNDAY COMMENTS FROM ND HEAD COACH Janusz Bednarski - "With all the emotions, I'm proud of the kids. They defended their place in the final four, which is not easy in any sport, especially for those kids, many of which are young. Our fencers were seen everywhere on the strips and in the final bouts, so it's a pleasure to have the honor and opportunity to represent Notre Dame, even if we were not getting the first-place trophy. We had a lot of All-Americans, more than last year even when everything looked good. ... Kelley has been honored by many medals already in world championships and around the country, and I think today she did a great job. She was disappointed because she didn't beat Garina like she did at the Regionals. But it was a tough job to beat Garina and -perhaps because of the emotions and her will to win - she lost a couple of touches. I think that the beauty of the epee final was shown in the exchanges of parry-ripostes. ... Valerie Providenza and Caity Thompson were the best fencers today, no doubt about it. The reason she lost her 15-14 bout in the semifinals is that the timing on the machines was changed only two years ago, and in the emotion, sometimes we forget about this when we are making our actions. Schneider is a little bit younger, so perhaps she was not as used to the old rules. ... Ashley's performance was something like spring flowers - you get them in your backyard suddenly and you're happy because of it. She caused a lot of trouble for some of the best fencers in the world, like Thompson. They haven't seen her face yet, but now they will remember her."
SUNDAY COMMENTS FROM ND ASSISTANT COACH Gia Kvaratskhelia - "I think the NCAAs went great. We did better than anticipated, with three girls in the final-four. With better luck, we might even have pushed Columbia today for third even with having one less person. ... It was a tremendous job for both Adi and Emilie. Adi went from sixth place last year to third this year and Emilie almost brought us 12 wins. Emilie seemed to get on track a little bit more today and she almost pushed for an All-American spot. I think she got used to the atmosphere and started using her skills to win. Today, we diverted more attention to Adi, and Emilie felt a lot looser because of that. She won six out of nine bouts, which is a great showing for her. ... At the end of the day, I think Adi was physically tired, and it started during the final round against Princeton. In terms of style, the German girl Golebiewski was really tricky. It took Adi a while to figure her out, and by then it was too late. With the new timing rules in foil, it favors the fencer who has even a one-point lead. ... The whole dynamic changed in the third-place bout and I expected more scoring than 9-8. That was a pure effort from the heart - it had nothing to do with the technique or anything. Both girls were exhausted and it came down to whoever had more patience and more heart, and Adi really came through in the overtime. We knew the girl would counterattack in overtime and the mindset was to just go forward and not be afraid to lay the point down, and Adi did it. She just had to go forward and hit her. In that situation - when there's so much on the line and both girls are tired - physically, it's impossible sometimes to set up that action, so it's just like 'close your eyes and go and get her.' Adi chose the right spot for the attack and she got it done."
WOMEN'S EPEE MEDAL-ROUND NOTES - Szele jumped out to a 6-3 lead on Hurley in the semifinals but failed to get a bigger margin the rest of the bout ... the fencers entered the break with a 6-5 score and the bout stayed tight until a 9-9 tie ... Hurley then scored on each of the next six touches (one a double-touch) for the 15-10 win ... the quick-scoring title bout included seven double-touches that accounted for half of the total touches ... Garina's biggest leads were 3-1 and 13-11, before the final point (on a toe touch) that gave the 6-foot-1 Ukranian the 15-13 win ... the bout was tied three times (6-6, 9-9 and 13-13) and Garina took and 11-10 lead into the first break ... Garina had defeated PSU's Anastasia Ferdman in the semifinals (15-10), with Szele then beating Ferdman in the third-place bout (15-14).
WOMEN'S SABRE MEDAL-ROUND NOTES - Providenza finished fourth, despite being outscored by a total of only three points in her two medal-round bouts ... neither fencer had more than a two-point lead in the semifinal between Providenza and Schneider (the eventual champion), with 10 ties and six lead changes ... Providenza held the 14-13 lead before Schneider claimed the final two points ... Jacobson jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the third-place bout but Providenza closed to 8-4 heading into the first break ... Providenza appeared to gain some refocus during the break and went on to score four straight points that cut the deficit to 11-10 ... Jacobson then claimed the next two points and Providenza followed with two of her own before trading touches with Jacobson for the 15-14 final score ... PSU's Caity Thompson beat Jacobson in the other semifinal (15-7) but lost to Schneider in the final (11-15).
WOMEN'S EPEE SUNDAY ROUND-ROBIN NOTES - Hurley went 7-2 on Sunday to finish second in the round-robin standings at 18-5 (her +42 was 5th-best among all 72 women's entrants and trailed only Garina's +57 among the epeeists, with Garina winning the round-robin at 21-2) ... Hurley bounced back from a pair of early losses on Sunday (4-5 vs. PSU's Ferdman and 3-5 to Danielle Henderson of Rutgers) to win her final six bouts, with notable wins over SJU's Szele and Tanya Novakovska (both 5-0), former Princeton All-American Erin McGarry (5-3) and NCAA veteran Courtney Krolokowsi of UNC (5-3) ... she also posted an early win over PSU veteran All-American Case Szarwark.
WOMEN'S FOIL SUNDAY ROUND-ROBIN NOTES - Nott closed 6-3 on Sunday for an 18-5 record (boosting her '06 win total by three), tying Najm for third in the round-robin ... Nott's lofty +42 in total-point indicators gave her the #3 seed in the medal round (Najm was just +23) ... the +42 tied Hurley for 6th-most in the entire women's field ... PSU's Willette (22-1; +72) and Golebiewski (19-4; +50) finished atop the foil round-robin standings ... Nott's top wins on Sunday came vs. Columbia's Kathleen Reckling (5-0) and the Harvard duo of Arielle Pensler (5-1) and Misha Goldfeder (3-2) ... Prot finished strong (6-3) to nearly claim All-America honors, as one of six who tied for 10th place at 11-12 ... Goldfeder (+5), SJU's Katia Larchanka (+3) and Princeton's Jocelyn Svengsouk (+2) received the final three All-America spots, followed y Penn's Ilana Sinkin (-1) and Prot (-4) ... Prot's top final-day wins included bouts with Columbia's Cassidy Luitjen (5-2), Harvard's Pensler (5-4) and Princeton's Svengsouk (5-1) ... she also beat Princeton's Sara Jew-Lim on a tough with :04 remaining ... Luitjen was one of the five fencers who beat Nott, as was Svengsouk ... Nott and Prot's 29 combined wins were 3rd-most in the women's foil field, behind PSU (40) and just one back of SJU (30), improving two spots on the 5th-place finish by the ND women's foilists in 2006.
WOMEN'S SABRE SUNDAY ROUND-ROBIN NOTES - Providenza ended with a 7-1 record, putting her second in the round-robin at 19-3 (she did not have a 23rd bout, due to the withdrawal of WSU's Katarzyna Kuzniak) ... PSU's Thompson went 20-3 to finish with one more win but the same number of losses as Providenza (her fellow Oregon Fencing Alliance club teammate) ... Providenza's +50 in indicators tied for the 4th-most among all 72 women's entrants, trailing only the three eventual champions (Thompson was +55, WSU epeeist Garina +57 and PSU foilist Willette +72) ... after losing to Schneider to start Sunday's action (1-5), Providenza rattled off seven straight wins that included top bouts with Columbia's Jacobson (5-1), PSU's Sophia Hiss (5-3) and Thompson (5-4), Stanford's Eva Jellison (5-3) and Northwestern's Mai Vu (5-1) ... Serrette finished 4-5 for a 9-14 record that tied for 14th (her -10 landed her in 16th) ... she literally was one touch from pulling off an All-America finish, losing each bout in her final round by 4-5 scores (vs. the potent duo of Schneider and Jacobson, plus Brown's Randy Alevi ... Serrette's wins on Sunday included a sweep of Penn's Cassandra Partyka (5-3) and Alexis Baran (5-2) ... Providenza and Serrette combined to finish 4th as a duo in the sabre standings, with 28 wins (behind Columbia's 35, PSU's 35 ad SJU's 32).
KEY HEAD-TO-HEAD SHOWDOWNS - Notre Dame's ability to outdistance Ohio State and Harvard while keeping close to Columbia was due in large part to the women going 27-21 in bouts vs. the other five top contending teams: 8-2 vs. Harvard, 5-3 vs. OSU and SJU, 5-5 vs. Columbia and 4-6 vs. PSU ... the women's foilists were 8-10 vs. the contenders while the sabreists were 10-10 and Hurley impressively went 9-1 vs. the epeeists from the top teams (only loss was to PSU's Ferdman, 4-5) ... Providenza's equally impressive 8-2 mark vs. fencers from the contenders included 1-1 vs. SJU and Columbia (with losses to Ovtchinnikova and Schneider) ... Nott went 6-3 (1-1 vs. PSU, Columbia and SJU) while Prot was 2-7 (wins over Columbia's Luitjen and Harvard's Pensler) and Serrette 2-8 (wins over Harvard's Parker and SJU's Wozniak).
ONE-TOUCH BOUTS - The Irish women combined to go 12-13 in one-touch bouts at the 2007 NCAAs (2-4 by Hurley, 3-0 by Providenza, 3-5 by Serrette, 1-1 by Nott and 3-3 by Prot) ... Hurley easily could have pushed Garina for the top spot in the round-robin standings, as four of her five losses came by a single touch.
TRIPLE THREAT - Notre Dame's 2004 team became the first in NCAA history to produce a finalist in all three women's weapons (foilists Alicja Kryczalo and Andrea Ament, epeeist Kerry Walton and sabre Valerie Providenza) and the Irish then duplicated the feat at the '05 NCAAs, with Kryczalo joined by epeeist Amy Orlando and sabreist Mariel Zagunis in their respective finals ... the 2007 NCAAs nearly saw three more women's finalists for ND, with Hurley, Nott and Providenza all advancing to the medal round ... in the eight years since women's sabre was adding as an NCAA weapon (2000-07), a team has sent its fencers to the medal round in all three women's weapons only six times (ND still is the only one with finalists in all three weapons):
2002 - St. John's ... foilist Irina Khouade (4th) epeeist Emese Takacs (4th) and sabreist Julia Gelman (3rd)
2003 - St. John's ... foilist Irina Khouade (4th), epeeist Arlene Stevens (4th) and sabreist Julia Gelman (2nd)
2006 - Penn State ... foilist Anna Donath (2nd), epeeist Katarzyna Trzopek (1st) and sabreist Caity Thompson (4th)
POINTS IN PERSPECTIVE - Notre Dame's final point total at the 2007 NCAAs (160) actually was eight higher than the 2006 Irish squad (152), which had the benefit of sending 12 competitors to the NCAAs ... the 2001 ND team also totaled fewer points (153, with 12 fencers) than the 2007 team, which likewise outscored the 11 ND fencers who competed at the 2004 NCAAs (153).
ALL-AMERICA BOOST - The Notre Dame men (6) and women (3) improved their combined total of All-Americans (top-12) from seven in 2006 to nine at the '07 NCAAs ... only the 2002 (10) and '03 (11) teams have produced more All-Americans than the 2007 Irish contingent that competed at the NCAAs (the 2000 and '05 teams also had nine All-Americans each).
SUPER SEMIFINALISTS - Notre Dame placed four total fencers into the medal round (semifinals), with men's senior sabreist Patrick Ghattas ultimately placing second before watching Hurley, Nott and Providenza post their respective top-4 finishes ... ND's high-water mark of total semifinalists in the six-weapon era (since 2000) is six, in the 2005 NCAA championship season (Ghattas and Providenza were part of that final-four group) ... the four medal-round fencers in 2007 matches the second-most for ND in the current decade (also 4 in '02, '03 and '04) ... prior to 2000, the ND fencing teams combined for five top-4 finishers in 1986, '88, '90 and '91 (plus four in '98) - meaning that the 2005 unit is the only ND team since 1991 with more than four medal-round finishers.
GENDER BALANCE - The 2007 NCAAs mark the ninth time (third straight year, fourth in past five) that Notre Dame has sent a fencer to the title bout in both a men's weapon and a women's event ... the others include:
THREE-TIMERS IN THE MEDAL ROUND - Providenza (1st in '04, 4th in '05 and '07) joined Ghattas (2nd from '05-'07) in making her third trip to the semifinals/medal round, and thus receiving elite first team All-America status ... five previous ND women's fencers (all foilists) had reached the semifinals three or more times, including four-time medalist (1s-3rd) Alicja Kryczalo (1st in '02-'04, 2nd in '05) and three others who each own three NCAA medals: Molly Sullivan (1st in '86 and '88, 3rd in '87), Sara Walsh (2nd in '96 and '97, 3rd in '98) and Andrea Ament (2nd in '02 and '04, 3rd in '03) ... Heidi Piper was the 1991 NCAA foil champ and '90 runner-up, plus 4th in '92 ... only five ND men's fencers ever have reached the NCAA semifinal round three-plus times: sabreists Mike Sullivan ('77 and '78 champion, '79 runner-up, 3rd in '76) and Leszek Nowosielski ('91 runner-up, 3rd in '90, 4th in '88), foilists Charles Higgs-Coulthard ('84 champion, 3rd in '86, 4th in '85 and '87) and Ozren Debic ('00 runner-up, 4th in '02 and '03) and epeeist Michal Sobieraj ('05 champ, '03 runner-up, 3rd in '04).
FANTASTIC FOUR-TIME ALL-AMERICANS - Providenza (also 9th in '06) and Ghattas (10th in '04) joined the elite list of Notre Dame's all-time four-year All-Americans, a group that now includes five women's foilists, four men's foilists, four men's sabreists, two men's epeeists, one multi-weapon women's fencer and Providenza from women's sabre (17 total) ... Ghattas is the first ND men's sabre fencer to be a four-year All-American since Luke LaValle ('99), with others including Mike Sullivan ('79) and Leszek Nowosielski ('91) ... just nine other Notre Dame student-athletes (for 26 total) ever have been four-year All-Americans: basketball great Kevin O'Shea ('50), women's soccer players Holly Manthei ('98 graduate), Jen Grubb ('00) and Anne Makinen ('01), distance runners Oliver Hunter ('43), Mike McWilliams ('93), Ryan Shay ('01) and Luke Watson ('03), and baseball pitcher Aaron Heilman ('00) ... the other 12 ND fencers who have been four-year All-Americans include women's foilists Molly Sullivan ('88), Myriah Brown ('99), Sara Walsh ('99), Alicja Kryczalo ('05) and Andrea Ament ('05), men's foilists Yehuda Kovacs ('89), Charles Higgs-Coulthard ('87), Jeremy Siek ('97) and Ozren Debic ('03), men's epeeists Jan Viviani ('03) and Michael Sobieraj ('03), and women's epeeist/foilist Magda Krol ('00) ... Providenza and Ghattas are the fourth set of classmates to be four-year All-Americans (also Brown, Walsh and LaValle in 1999, Viviani and Debic in '03, and the potent 2004 departing trio of Kryczalo, Ament and Sobieraj).
VAL GOES OUT NEAR THE TOP - Providenza will be remembered as one of Notre Dame's top all-time performers at the NCAAs, amassing a 71-19 career record in NCAA round-robin bouts ... only three ND women' fencers ever have totaled more NCAA round-robin wins, with that short list including two of Providenza's former teammates - foilists Alicja Kryczalo (84-8) and Andrea Ament (75-17) - plus late 1980s foil standout Molly Sullivan (80-12) ... Providenza's .789 career win pct. at the NCAAs ranks 7th in the ND women's fencing record book, behind Sullivan (.915), Kryczalo (.913), foilist Sara Walsh (.870; '96-'99), sabreist Mariel Zagunis (.826; 38-8), Ament (.815) and foilist Heidi Piper (.791; 53-14) ... only two ND men's fencers ever have won more NCAA round-robin bouts than Providenza: sabreist Mile Sullivan (95-9) and foilist Ozren Debic (73-19), with her classmate Patrick Ghattas not far behind at 69-23 ... Sullivan (.913) and Debic (.794) also are the only ND men's fencers with a better career win pct. at the NCAAs than Providenza's .789.
HURLEY CAPS DOMINATING FRESHMAN YEAR - Hurley's near-title at the NCAAs complete an impressive rookie season in which she dominated her collegiate competition, going 51-4 in the regular season before winning the women's epee competitions at Midwest Fencing Conference Championships and the NCAA Midwest Regional ... Hurley ended up a couple touches shy of joining foilist Alicja Kryczalo (in '02 and '03) ever to win the MFC, Regional and NCAA titles in the same year ... she also became just the 12th Notre Dame freshman ever to fence in an NCAA title bout, with the previous 11 six other women's fencers: 1997 epee champ Magda Krol, '02 foil champ Kryczalo, `04 sabre champ Providenza and three who were runner-up (foilists Sara Walsh in '96 and Andrea Ament in '02, plus sabreist Mariel Zagunis in '05) ... here's a look at the top all-time NCAA finishes by Notre Dame freshmen, with several other current members of the Irish squad on this list:
Top NCAA Finishes by Notre Dame Freshmen
AWESOME ALUMS - A number of Notre Dame fencing alums were on hand at the 2007 NCAAs to cheer on the Irish ... those alumni included (among others): foilists Andrea Ament ('02-`05), Matt Castellan ('01-`04) and Matt Mergen ('88), epeeist David Tyler ('00-`01), sabreists Andre Crompton ('99-'02) and Dan Yu ('87-`89, '91) and foilist/epeeist Nicole Mustilli (`96-`99).
WEAPON HISTORY - Here's an updated breakdown of Notre Dame's NCAA success at each of the women's weapons:
Women's Foil (3rd in '07): 36 All-America awards (24 since '90, two every season from '96-'00, plus '02-'05) ... six NCAA champions, plus six NCAA runner-ups and five four-year All-Americans ... since '82, squad has finished first at NCAAs eight times ('87, '94, '96, '98, '02-`05), second six times ('86, '88, '90, '91, '95, '97), third in '89 and `07.
Women's Epee (7th in '07): 20 All-America awards (since '95), two NCAA titles, two runner-ups ... squad has finished first at NCAAs twice ('97, `04), second in '98, '01 and '03, third five times ('96, '99, '02, '05, '06).
Women's Sabre (4th in '07): Nine All-America awards and two NCAA champions ('04, '06), since weapon made its NCAA debut in 2000 (also '05 NCAA runner-up) .. squad finished first at the 2005 NCAAs and third in '06.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM? - A look at the rosters for the top six teams at the 2007 NCAAs (ND, PSU, SJU, Columbia, OSU and Harvard) reveals that two-thirds of the entrants from those schools in the NCAAs hail from hometowns in the U.S. (48; with 21 listing foreign hometowns) ... the 17 home states represented by the NCAA entrants from those six teams include most commonly New York (10) and California (6), plus five from Oregon, four each from Texas, New Jersey and Massachusetts, three each from Colorado, and two each from Maryland and Ohio (plus single fencers from Indiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Georgia, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Minnesota) ... the 2007 entrants for the six top teams included fencers with hometowns listed from 13 foreign countries, led by Germany (4), Israel (4), Ukraine (3), Poland (2) and Canada (2) plus one each from Hone Kong, Belarus, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Sweden.