Notre Dame Fencing Press Conference Quotes

March 28, 2011

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Head Coach Janusz Bednarski:

Opening statements...
"Welcome everyone, and thank you for coming. It is a great day for our program. It is not only a great day, but a great year. From the beginning of the season we had excellent results, especially by winning medals in the championships in Paris by Gerek Meinhardt in men's foil for the USA. It was a great indicator for a good season because we expected him to be a main engine in our team. Unfortunately after those Championships, Gerek got injured and that put a big shadow on our chances of medaling during the NCAA Championships. However, we have a great team, not just one great fencer. We have a great group of kids who believe that they can step in and replace him and that's what happened."

On how this season went...
"Our season went pretty well. We went up against the top teams in the nation. Our squads were winning medals during the Midwest Conference Championships. We won all gold medals in squad competitions, and we won the overall championship. We beat the record for most gold medals in the event, and pushed the record to a place where it cannot be beat because you cannot do better than gold in all the events. So for me, it looked as though we could get very good results in the NCAA Championships. The absence of Gerek Meinhardt did not affect us as much as I expected because of the help of our captains and other top fencers. After sectionals were the Regionals where we took 14 fencers and we advanced to the finals. Now our rivals, Princeton, Ohio State and Penn State also went far. I know that those schools and St. Johns as well all had very dangerous fencers. However, you have to remember single fencers do not make a team have great results. So we were optimistic, but obviously we had no idea how it would turn out."

On what he noticed during the NCAA Championships...
"We had the situation where during the four days of the Championships we struggled to keep the lead during the entire competition, but we finished well. However I will tell you that it was not easy. There were moments that were reminders of our previous losses when our kids got the feeling that we had already medaled because we had the lead. Some of our top fencers started to have mental blocks near the end of the Championships, but I told them to not lose the vision of winning the championship. We had a meeting as coaches, and then went to our fencers to make sure that they were focused. We told them to not do anything risky that would cause us to lose the gold medal. Courtney Hurley showed this from the start of the event. She stayed focused the entire time. Avery Zuck showed this as well. Ariel DeSmet was something different. He is just a freshman so he actually enjoyed this whole thing. He was happy to be there. He really helped us in that situation. People that Ariel went up against were tight, but Ariel wasn't. There was no fear from him. He believed there was no one that could stop him, and that helped him in each bout. Each bout for each person had different problems, but most of them were solved positively in different ways."

On this years team...
"This is one of the best groups that I have worked with in my entire life. They were hard workers, intelligent, and ambitious. It was just a pleasure working with, and being with them. It was a pleasure to see that all 18 seniors are going home with rings on their hands. That was the most important thing about this year, and I am very happy of everything they did. I am very proud of them."

Player Quotes:

Avery Zuck - Senior - Men's Sabre

On having success even with the loss of Gerek Meinhardt...
"Honestly, I've been here a while, and this year's foil team is absolutely unbelievable. I mean Ariel (DeSmet) is a freshman but performed just as well as Gerek did a year ago so I think he completely eliminated that loss which is pretty amazing when you talk about a kid that has a chance to win a medal at the next Olympics. You have to give credit to our foil coach, Gia (Kvaratskhelia), who is an amazing coach who brings in amazing kids. It was definitely a big hit when Gerek went out, but if we were going to take a hit at on any weapon, that would be the one. I think we have five fencers ranked in the top ten of that weapon so that was a good place to have a problem."

On the stability of the team...
"I know with Janusz, he is connected with a lot of coaches across the country including my coach back at home. There is an environment here that I think is different from many other schools. They want to embrace you and make you better. It isn't just about getting on you if you underperform. The environment here is that they want you to do your best, and if you do that, they accept the result."

Ariel DeSmet - Freshman - Men's Foil

On what helped them win the Championships...
"I think it really helped to see Gerek at all of our events even though he was injured. He was at the NCAAs cheering us on. He gave us great advice though out the season which really helped."

On the state of the program...
"Gia is such a phenomenal coach who is always going to attract special people and fencers as well, and I think he knows what to look for in his recruits. I think foil will be taken care of for as long as he is here."

Courtney Hurley - Junior - Women's Epee

On how it feels to win a gold medal...
"Well it is a lot different for someone like Ariel, who is a freshman, who comes in and wins. He did not go through the struggle that most of us have gone through in the last few years. I'm only a junior so it wasn't as bad for me either, but for the seniors who have been here for four years and not winning a team championship until this year, it's really special. So it is a different experience for everyone. For me, it felt like the Olympics. It feels like a world championship. Fencing is an individual sport, and to make a team out of it is a very special thing."



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