March 14, 2017
By Joanne Norell
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — For the third straight year, the University of Notre Dame fencing program will send the maximum allotted 12 fencers to the NCAA Championships, one of just two programs that will compete with 12 participants March 23-26 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.
The third-ranked Irish women will send senior Lee Kiefer and sophomore Sabrina Massialas in foil, junior Francesca Russo and sophomore Tara Hassett in sabre, and sophomores Madeline Antekeier and Amanda Sirico in epee. The No. 4 men’s squad qualified sophomore Axel Kiefer and senior Kristjan Archer in foil, juniors Jonathan Fitzgerald and Jonah Shainberg in sabre, and freshman Ariel Simmons and sophomore Dylan French in epee.
Notre Dame and reigning national champion Columbia/Barnard are the only programs that reached the maximum allotment for NCAA qualification. Last season, four teams sent 12 fencers to the national championships.
The Irish will look to improve upon a fifth-place finish from a season ago, and will do so with nine returning All-Americans. Lee Kiefer is a three-time NCAA women’s foil champion and will look to become the first Notre Dame student-athlete to capture four national titles in the same event. Russo earned the 2015 title in women’s sabre and was a second-team All-American last season. Massialas and Axel Kiefer were first-team All-Americans in 2016 after finishing third in women’s and men’s foil, respectively.
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.
Notre Dame, in conjunction with the Indiana Sports Corp, will serve as the host institution for this year’s NCAA 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 2:30 p.m. ET on April 5. 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 women's soccer, men's tennis, women's tennis and fencing programs. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in mass communication, and earned her master's degree in sports industry management from Georgetown University in 2013.