March 25, 2013
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - The University of Notre Dame fencing team had reason to celebrate Sunday, as both Lee Kiefer and Courtney Hurley won women's weapon crowns on the final day of the NCAA Championship at the Freeman Coliseum. For Hurley, it was her second career championship in the women's epee (2011), while Kiefer won in her first appearance in the women's foil at the NCAA Championship bouts.
The Irish finished in second place with 175 points, seven points behind tournament winner Princeton. It was the first win for the Ivy League fencing program since its men's team claimed the NCAA Championship in 1964. The Tigers are coached by former Notre Dame assistant coach Zoltan Dudas, and were the only other team at this year's NCAA Championship to qualify the maximum of 12 fencers.
Kiefer, who started the day 14-1, finished pool play undefeated at 8-0 to enter the semifinals seeded first. She posted two 5-2 victories against Mona and Mai Shaito (Ohio State), and swept Cornell's April Whitney 5-3 and Angelica Gangemi 5-1. Kiefer also defeated Midwestern rivals Dayana Sarkisova (Northwestern) 5-1 and Olivia Dobbs (Wayne State) 5-0. Kiefer's 22-1 record tied Gerek Meinhardt (2013) and Andrea Ament (2002) for the second-best won-loss record by a Notre Dame fencer at the NCAA Championship meet.
"The format is obviously different (from the Olympics), and I'm not used to the college format, because anyone can win it in a five-touch bout," Kiefer said. "I hope I can win (women's foil) again, and win a national championship for Notre Dame."
Madison Zeiss, who finished in eighth place at last year's NCAA Championship, concluded pool play 7-1, with her only loss coming against Sarkisova 5-2 in her last bout of the round robin play. Her record placed her in the semifinals with the third seed, where she lost to Jackie Dubrovich (Columbia/Barnard) 15-7. Zeiss tied for third place with Mona Shaito of Ohio State to claim first team All-America honors.
Hurley posted a 7-1 record to finish the day seeded third in the epee semifinals. Her lone loss was a 4-3 overtime defeat at the hands of Francesca Bassa (Stanford). Her most impressive win of the day came against Bassa's Cardinal teammate Vivian Kong, 5-2. In the semifinal round, Hurley defeated Margherita Guzzi Vincenti (Penn State) 15-14.
The bout see-sawed between both epeeists, as Hurley concluded the first period with a 5-3 lead, only for Guzzi Vincenti to come back in the second period and tie the score 10-10. Hurley started the third period with three consecutive touches, only for Guzzi Vincenti to have a 4-1 run to tie the match at 14- all. Hurley's final point came on a hand-touch with a minute remaining.
In the NCAA Championship bout, Hurley faced Olympic teammate Susannah Scanlan (Princeton). Hurley paced the action in the first period, ending the three-minute session with a score of 4-2. Starting the second period, the Irish senior scored seven touches, only allowing three in return, to increase the score to 11-5. Hurley concluded the bout with a 4-1 run to win her second career national championship.
Fellow Notre Dame epeeist Ewa Nelip finished the competition with a 15-8 record, good for eighth place in the epee class. All six Notre Dame women's fencers earned All-America status, and were joined by men's foilists Ariel DeSmet and Gerek Meinhardt, and sabreur Kevin Hassett. Hurley became the program's first four-time first-team All-American since Alicja Kryczalo (2002-05).
Lian Osier finished her final NCAA Championship with a 14-9 record and eighth-place finish in the women's sabre. Johanna Thill went 11-12, 5-3 in her final day of competition, to finish in 11th place. Thill earned third-team All-America status in her first appearance at the NCAA Championship.