March 13, 2018
By Joanne Norell
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — For the fourth straight year, the University of Notre Dame fencing program will send the maximum allotted 12 fencers to the NCAA Championships, one of just three programs that will compete with 12 participants March 22-25 at Penn State University.
The top-ranked Irish women will send senior Francesca Russo and junior Tara Hassett in sabre, juniors Sabrina Massialas and Elyssa Kleiner in foil and junior Amanda Sirico and freshman Dasha Yefremenko in epee. The No. 4 men’s squad qualified seniors Jonah Shainberg and Jonathan Fitzgerald in sabre, junior Axel Kiefer and freshman Nick Itkin in foil and senior Nicholas Hanahan and sophomore Ariel Simmons in epee.
The reigning national champion, Notre Dame will join Columbia/Barnard and Ohio State as the only programs to reach the maximum allotment for NCAA qualification.
The Irish return seven 2017 All-Americans to competition this season, including first-teamers Russo, Sirico and Simmons. Russo claimed her second national title in women’s sabre last season, while Sirico and Simmons each placed third in their respective disciplines. Shainberg is a three-time All-American, while Fitzgerald and Massialas are two-time honorees. Kleiner, Yefremenko, and Itkin are each making their first career NCAA appearances.
The National Collegiate Men’s and Women’s Fencing Championships include individual events in each of the six weapons, and fencers will compete in a round-robin format of five-touch bouts. After the round-robin, the top-four finishers in each weapon will fence in semifinal 15-touch bouts, with the winners fencing to determine first and second places, and the non-advancing fencers being awarded a tie for third place.
Place finish in the championships will be based on points earned by each individual. A team will be awarded one point for each victory by its student-athletes for the duration of the championships.
A live feed of the semifinal and final bouts will be available on ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app. The semifinals and finals, along with other championships highlights, will air on ESPNU at 1 p.m. ET on April 4. For more information about the championships, log onto NCAA.com.
Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2014 and coordinates communications efforts for the Notre Dame men's tennis and fencing programs, in addition to assisting with football communications and overseeing production of the football Gameday Magazine. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University and earned her master's degree from Georgetown University in 2013.