March 7, 2014
DETROIT, Mich. – The University of Notre Dame fencing team travels to the University of Detroit-Mercy this weekend for the 2014 NCAA Midwest Regional qualifiers, held Saturday, March 8th starting at 9:00 a.m. Unlike in previous years, both the men’s and women’s qualifiers in all six weapons classes will be held on one day.
Notre Dame has a storied reputation at the Midwest Regional competition, qualifying 12 combatants for the final Championships every year since 2007, when they sent 11 competitors. Under current head coach Janusz Bednarski’s tutelage, the Irish have clinched three Championship titles, the last one being in 2011.
The Irish will have several familiar faces competing in Callihan Hall tomorrow, as defending 2013 NCAA Champion Lee Kiefer – one of two 2012 Olympians on Notre Dame’s team – is joined by captain of the men’s team Gerek Meinhardt and 2013 NCAA competitors Garrett McGrath, Michael Rossi, Johanna Thill, Madison Zeiss, Ariel DeSmet, Kevin Hassett and John Hallsten. From the 2012 NCAA roster, women’s epeeists Ashley Severson and Nicole Ameli will look to replace graduated seniors Courtney Hurley and Ewa Nelip from last year’s NCAA contingent.
Kiefer is not the only international superstar competing under Notre Dame colors this year, either. Meinhardt – at one point the No. 1 men’s foilist in the world this season – is a two time Olympian, current member of Team USA and the 2010 NCAA men’s foil champion after claiming the runner-up spot in 2009. DeSmet, his fellow foilist, also claimed the title in 2011, defeating Meinhardt’s 2012 Olympic teammate Miles Chamley-Watson from Penn State as a freshman. While Thill, McGrath, and Hallsten all qualified as freshmen last year, both Hassett and Zeiss stand to make their third trip to the NCAAs this year.
Joining the Irish will be several Midwest Fencing Conference teams, notably Ohio State, Northwestern, and Wayne State. To follow the Irish throughout the day, follow the team on Twitter @NDFencing and on Facebook.