March 15, 2016
By Joanne Norell
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame fencing program will once again send the maximum number of participants to the NCAA Championships, as the NCAA men’s and women’s fencing committee announced Tuesday that the Irish had qualified 12 fencers following a strong showing at Saturday’s NCAA Midwest Regional.
Notre Dame is one of four schools — in addition to Columbia, Princeton and St. John’s — to qualify 12 fencers to the upcoming championships, to be held March 24-27 at the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.
For the Irish men, ranked No. 3 in the latest CollegeFencing360.com Coaches Poll, senior Garrett McGrath and freshman Darius Zacharakis will compete in epee, sophomore Virgile Collineau and freshman Axel Kiefer will take part in foil and sophomores Jonathan Fitzgerald and Jonah Shainberg will participate in sabre. The top-ranked women qualified senior Catherine Lee and freshman Madeline Antekeier in epee, senior Nicole McKee and freshman Sabrina Massialas in foil and sophomore Francesca Russo and freshman Tara Hassett in sabre.
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.
The Irish will look to improve upon their third-place showing from a year ago at this year’s championships, which will feature two days of women’s competition followed by two days of men’s play. Notre Dame boasted two individual national champions last season, with Lee Kiefer — who is taking the year off to train for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio — claiming her third women’s foil title and Russo capturing the women’s sabre crown.
This year’s championships will be the first for seniors Lee and McKee, in addition to this year’s crop of freshman. Collineau, Fitzgerald, Russo and Shainberg will all be making their second appearance at the event.
A live feed of the semi-final and final bouts will be available on ESPN3 or the WatchESPN App. The semi-finals and finals, along with other championships highlights, will air on ESPNU at 2:30 p.m. ET on April 6. For more information about the championships, log onto NCAA.com.
Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant 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 and earned her master's degree from Georgetown University in 2013.