March 21, 2001
The Notre Dame fencing teams' four-day quest to reclaim the NCAA title begins Thursday in Kenosha, Wis., as the Irish men's and women's squads will do battle at the University of Wisconsin's Petretti Fieldhouse as one of the favorites to take home the NCAA combined men's and women's championship.
Notre Dame-runner-up to Penn State each of the past five years-will be taking aim at its first national title since 1994 and joins St. John's as the only teams to qualify the maximum 12 fencers for the NCAA field. Penn State and Stanford both qualified 11 fencers while Princeton (10) rounds out the group of five teams that have the most realistic chances at capturing the 2001 title.
The 144-fencer field includes 24 men's and 24 women's fencers at each of the three weapons (foil, epee and sabre). Fencers will compete against the other 23 competitors in their respective weapons, with teams earning one point for each round-robin victory posted by a fencer from that team.
The men's competition will be held Thursday and Friday (from 8:00 - 5:00 p.m.) while the women will compete on Saturday and Sunday. The top four round-robin finishers in each weapon will fence for the respective individual titles at the end of Friday and Sunday's competition (those results do not factor into the team competition). The top 12 finishers in each weapon receive All-America honors.
Notre Dame's 12-fencer contingent includes four natives from South Bend and the surrounding area who honed their craft at the Indiana Fencing Academy, based in downtown Mishawaka. Those local products are led by two-time All-America sabre Andrzej Bednarski, who hails from Granger and is the son of Irish assistant coach Janusz Bednarski.
Two Mishawaka natives-junior Brian Casas and Anna Carnick -have earned All-America honors in past NCAA epee competition (Casas in 1999, Carnick in 2000) while freshman women's sabre Destanie Milo (Knox) will be making her debut at the NCAAs after an impressive rookie season.
The top-ranked Notre Dame men are led by a pair of sophomores, as foilist Ozren Debic (84-5, .944) and epeeist Jan Viviani (75-11, .872) own the best career winning percentages in the Irish record book for their respective weapons.
Debic (who posted a 42-2 regular-season record in 2001) lost in the 2001 NCAA title bout to Stanford's Felix Reichling but will get another crack at his growing rival in the 2001 NCAAs.
Viviani (44-4) placed third at the 2000 NCAAs and is considered a top contender for the 2001 epee title, after winning the recent Junior Olympic competition in Salt Lake City.
The fifth-ranked Irish women are led by three returning All-Americans and senior sabre captain Carianne McCullough, who competed in the 2000 NCAAs before posting a 34-8 record in 2001. Carnick and fellow sophomore Meagan Call both posted All-America finishes in 2000, as did sophomore foilist Liza Boutsikaris (whose 90-15 career record includes a 54-7 mark in 2001).
Notre Dame's other NCAA men's competitors include sophomore foilist Forest Walton and junior sabre Andre Crompton (who led the strong Irish sabres with a 43-7 record in 2001) while freshman foilist Maggie Jordan rounds out the six women's competitors, following a strong debut season with the Irish.
SCOUTING THE FIELD
* The 2001 NCAA field includes 40 (of 72) returning All-Americans from the 2000 competition. In addition to Notre Dame's six returning All-Americans-Debic, Viviani, Bednarski, Boutsikaris, Call and Carnick-the others include the following.
* Debic and Reichling would appear to be the prohibitive favorites at men's foil, based on the low number of returning All-Americans (five), with the others including St. John's Joe Fisher (6th in 2000), Penn's Yale Cohen (9th) and Columbia's Jed Dupree (12th).
* The men's epee field is stocked with nine returning All-Americans, led by the top five finishers from 2000: Penn State's Daniel Landgren, the St. John's duo of Alex Roytblat (2nd) and Doron Levitt (4th), Viviani and Stanford's Eric Tribbett. Other returning All-America epeeists include Yevegni Niyzov (Rutgers, 8th), Air Force's Seth Kelsey (9th), Geoff Kane (Ohio State, 11th) and Penn's Charles Hamann (12th).
* Bednarski (5th) is one of just five returning All-Americans at sabre but 1999 NCAA champ Keeth Smart (St. John's) is back in the field after not fencing in the 2000 NCAAs. The reigning NCAA runner-up-Jacob Krochmalski (Wayne State)-also heads the list of favorites, as does Ivan Lee of St. John's (3rd), Columbia's Patrick Durkan (6th) and Stanford's Robert Owens (7th).
* Boutsikaris could make a run at the women's foil title, as Penn State's Charlotte Walker (4th) is the only returner from the top-six finishers at the 2000 NCAAs. Other returning All-Americans in the 2001 field include Ohio State's Fane Groes (7th), Ute Breden of Stanford (8th), Princeton's Melinda Rostal (9th) and Emily Katz of Harvard (11th).
* As with the men's competition, the women's epee field returns nine of 12 All-Americans from 2000, led by three semifinalists: the St. John's tandem of Emese Takacs (2nd) and Arlene Stevens (4th) and Penn State's Stephanie Eim (3rd). Other returning All-Americans include Northwestern's Kate Rudkin (5th), Maya Lawrence of Princeton (8th), Carnick (9th), Wayne State's Marta Sciubisz (10th), Monica Conley of Columbia (11th) and Call (12th).
* Half of the 2000 women's sabre All-Americans are back for more, led by defending champion Caroline Purcell of M.I.T. and runner-up Kim Treiber of North Carolina. Others to watch include Northwestern's Carly Wells (5th), Stephanie Tam of Penn State (6th), Marisa Mustilli of St. John's (9th, sister of former ND All-American Nicole Mustilli) and James Madison's Allison Schwartz (12th).