March 20, 2017
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Four University of Notre Dame fencers picked up more conference hardware Monday, earning Atlantic Coast Conference Fencer of the Year honors in their respective weapons.
Senior Lee Kiefer was named the ACC Women’s Fencer of the Year for Foil; junior Francesca Russo was selected as the ACC Women’s Fencer of the Year for Sabre; sophomore Axel Kiefer was named the ACC Men’s Fencer of the Year for Foil; and freshman Ariel Simmons was picked as ACC Men’s Fencer of the Year for Épée.
In addition to the four student-athletes, head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia was selected as the ACC Women’s Coach of the Year for the second time (also in 2016).
The Irish boast four ACC fencers of the year for the second time; they also earned four such honors in 2015.
Returning to Notre Dame after taking a year off to train for the Rio Olympics, Kiefer posted a perfect 31-0 record during the regular season and the nation’s top FSF value of 143.8289. At the ACC Championship, she went 15-0 in pool play before finishing second in the title bout. She enters this week’s NCAA Championships in search of her fourth national women’s foil title and with the FIE No. 1 ranking in the world after winning gold at the Absolute Fencing Gear Long Beach Foil Grand Prix over the weekend.
Axel posted the top FSF value of 109.3167 in the conference this season, good for third in the nation, and finished the regular season with a 35-15 record. The sophomore from Versailles, Kentucky, completed pool play with a 12-3 record at the ACC Championship and finished as the runner-up. He will represent the Irish in foil at the NCAA Championships this week.
Simmons finished the regular season with a 36-23 record and an FSF of 97.9055, the best mark in the conference and 12th in the nation. The freshman from Bellaire, Texas, went 9-5 in pool play at the ACC Championship before defeating Duke’s Bryn Hammarberg and teammate Dylan French to claim the ACC individual title.
Russo went 14-0 in pool play at the ACC Championship before defeating Duke’s Lindsay Sapienza to claim the ACC individual title. During the regular season, the junior from Wayne, New Jersey, was 37-16 with the the best FSF in the ACC and fourth-best in the country.
Kvaratskhelia led the Irish women to their third straight ACC title and a No. 3 national ranking in the latest coaches poll. He was named the co-Women's Coach of the Year in 2016, and was named Men's Coach of the Year in 2015 and 2016.
Notre Dame will send the maximum 12 allotted fencers to this week’s NCAA Championships — including Lee Kiefer, Axel Kiefer, Simmons and Russo — one of just two schools to qualify the maximum. Notre Dame, along with the Indiana Sports Corp, will serve as host of the event March 23-26 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.
2016-17 ACC Fencing Awards
Men’s Fencer of the Year for Épée: Ariel Simmons, Notre Dame
Women’s Fencer of the Year for Épée: Reneé Bichette, Boston College
Men’s Fencer of the Year for Foil: Axel Kiefer, Notre Dame
Women’s Fencer of the Year for Foil: Lee Kiefer, Notre Dame
Men’s Fencers of the Year for Sabre: Pascual Di Tella, Duke
Women’s Fencer of the Year for Sabre: Francesca Russo, Notre Dame
Men’s Coach of the Year: Alex Beguinet, Duke
Women’s Coach of the Year: Gia Kvaratskhelia, Notre Dame