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    March 21, 1998

    Notre Dame Takes Slim Lead Into Final Day At NCAA Fencing Championships

    NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Three-time defending NCAA men's and women's fencing champion Penn State used a strong performance from its men's foilists to trim Notre Dame's lead to three points after the third of four days of competition at the NCAA men's and women's fencing championships at the Angela Athletic Facility in Notre Dame, Ind.

    The Irish lead the field with 128 points while Penn State is second with 125 points. Stanford is third with 106, Columbia-Barnard is fourth with 97 and St. John's fifth with 97. The Penn State men's foil duo of Gang Lu and David Lidow won 24 of a possible 28 bouts in the first five rounds to slash considerably the Irish lead, which stood at 10 entering the day.

    Notre Dame's Luke LaValle won the men's sabre championship to become the first Irish men's national champion since 1990 and the first Irish sabreman to win in 20 years. LaValle finished the round robin competition with a 17-6 record and was seeded third entering the championship round before beating Columbia's Patrick Durkan 15-12 and Penn's Michael Golia 15-11 to win the title. Stanford's Felicia Zimmermann won the women's foil title and Penn State's Charlotte Walker won the women's epee title on Friday.

    Men's epee and foil fenced the first five of eight rounds of their competition on Saturday with rounds six through eighth slated to conclude the championships on Sunday. Columbia's Dan Kellner, NCAA men's foil champion in 1996, started off the first two rounds in first place with a 5-0 record and finished with a 12-2 record, good for first place with four other fencers, including Penn's defending champion Cliff Bayer. Columbia's Noah Zucker took the early lead in men's epee at 5-0 and ended the first five rounds as one of seven fencers at 10-4.

    The championship consists of 120 fencers in five weapons with teams receiving one point for each win in the 24 fencer round-robin competition in each weapon. The top four fencers in each weapon advance to the championship semifinal and final where the winner in each weapon will be determined. Wins in this portion of the competition do not count toward team standings.

    Penn State is looking for its fourth straight NCAA fencing championship. Notre Dame, NCAA champions in 1994, is the last team to beat the Nittany Lions at the NCAA championships.

    Notes From Third Day of Competition

    • Notre Dame maintained its 10-point lead over Penn State after the first two rounds of men's epee and foil.
    • Columbia's Dan Kellner, NCAA men's foil champion in 1996, started off the first two rounds in first place with a 5-0 record and finished with a 12-2 record, good for first place with four other fencers, including Penn's defending champion Cliff Bayer.
    • Columbia's Noah Zucker took the early lead in men's epee at 5-0 and ended the first five rounds as one of seven fencers at 10-4.
    • Penn State cut Notre Dame's lead to six after the third round of men's epee and foil on the strength of a 4-0 showing against the Irish in men's foil. The Nittany Lion duo of Gang Lu and David Lidow swept the Irish pair of Stephane Auriol and John Tejada.
    • Notre Dame's men's epee duo of Carl Jackson and Brian Stone combined for 17 points through the first five rounds, trailing only the 18 of St. John's and Stanford.
    • Penn State took a one-win lead following the fifth round of men's epee and foil thanks to the foil pair of Lu and Lidow. The pair combined for 24 wins while the Irish could manage just nine.
    • Notre Dame reclaimed the lead following the sixth round of sabre by three wins. Penn State went 2-5 in round five while the Irish were 5-1. The Irish upped the lead to four following the seventh round. Penn State and Notre Dame split their four sabre bouts in round seven. Notre Dame's Andrzej Bednarski beat Penn State's Aaron Steuwe and Notre Dame's Luke LaValle beat Penn State's Michael Takagi. Steuwe then beat LaValle and Takagi beat Bednarski. The Lions trimmed the lead to three at the conclusion of sabre.
    • Three sabreman entered the final round tied for fourth for the final spot in the championship round: LaValle, NYU's 1995 men's sabre champion Paul Palestis and Steuwe. Palestis and Steuwe each went 2-1 in round eight while LaValle went 3-0 to earn the third seed in the championship round.
    • St. John's defending men's sabre champion Keeth Smart finished eighth with a 13-10 record.
    • In the sabre semifinals, top seeded Paolo Roselli of Cleveland State fell to Penn's Michael Golia after Golia used a 9-2 run to finish the 15-8 win. LaValle build leads of 9-5 and 14-10 and hung on for a 15-12 win over Columbia's Patrick Durkan, who had beaten LaValle 5-4 in the round robin. In the championship bouts, LaValle won 10 of 12 touches for a 10-4 lead and edged his way to a 15-11 win over Golia, who also had beaten LaValle 5-4 during round robin.
    • LaValle is the first men's sabre champion from Notre Dame in 20 years since Mike Sullivan won in 1978 and the first men's fencing champion since Jubba Beshin won the men's epee title in 1990.

    Quotes

    Luke LaValle, Notre Dame
    1998 NCAA Men's Sabre Champion
    
    "I was really focused on the strip today. Yesterday I was really nervous and wasn't really with it. I had no decision today but to come out differently. I just decided to go out and have fun. It was a lot more fun to win."

    On making the final four:
    "I knew after yesterday that if I were to make the final four, I'd have to fence a lot better today. I really wanted to make it and knew that if

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