Individuals dominate NCAAs for Irish
Matt Mooney | Tuesday, March 30, 2004
WALTHAM, Mass. – Unlike last year, the sum of the individual parts proved greater than the whole at the 2004 fencing national championships Sunday at Brandeis University. The individual competition proved very successful for the Irish, as the team totaled four gold and silver medal performances and one third-place medalist.On the men’s side Michal Sobieraj placed third individually, a year after he finished as the epee runner-up. After losing to Benjamin Bratton from St. John’s 15-13 in the semifinals, he defeated Ohio State’s Denis Tolkachev in the third place bout by a 15-8 score to take the bronze medal.For the women, the individual success was historic. Notre Dame qualified four fencers to compete in all three weapons, Alicja Kryczalo and Andrea Ament in foil, Valerie Providenza in sabre and Kerry Walton in epee. Of the three weapons, the Irish women boasted two national champions and two runners-up with at least one in each weapon. No women’s team in NCAA history had ever posted finalists in all three weapons prior to Friday. Kryczalo’s win marked her third foil championship in as many years, defeating teammate Ament in the title bout by a 15-7 score. She becomes only the second woman in NCAA history to win three titles in any weapon since Penn State’s Olga Kalinovskaya won four foil championships from 1993-96.Ament, the other half of the talented “A-Team,” finished in the top three for the third time in her career, taking second to Kryczalo also in 2002 and winning the bronze medal in 2003. But given the choice, she wanted to face her teammate in the finals. “It’s the best-case scenario because if we have to fence earlier then we won’t be first and second [and] that’s what we wanted,” Ament said.Following in Kryczalo’s footsteps, freshman Valerie Providenza won the sabre title in her first national championships, only the fifth Notre Dame freshman (and first sabre) to do so. She avenged her loss to Sophia Hiss during the round-robin bouts by defeating Hiss in the gold medal bout by a score of 15-8. Providenza never trailed and claimed the last six touches to clinch the win. “It hasn’t really hit me yet,” she said. “I’m just kind of in shock right now, just assuming I have another tournament tomorrow.”Epeeist Kerry Walton closed out the women’s competition with a silver medal finish. The senior lost to Wayne State’s Anna Garina by a 15-10 margin in the finals. All four women, however, barely made it to their respective title bouts. In the foil semi-finals, Ament faced Ohio State’s Hanna Thompson who had been little trouble for Ament in her 5-2 round-robin win. Thompson, however, looked ready for revenge and jumped on Ament for a 5-1 lead and led by a 5-2 score at the second intermission. But Ament put together a furious rally, storming back to score four of the next five touches to force sudden death overtime.She was awarded the priority and would win in the event of time expiring without a touch, but she did not need it. Ament scored the next touch and advanced into the finals.Kryczalo’s bout was a polar opposite. In a much faster bout, she had no worries of overtime but had to ward off a comeback from Jessica Leahy. Leahy, who had handed Kryczalo her only loss in Friday’s round robin, provided problems as a smaller, quicker opponent. After trailing 12-10, Kryczalo won the next four points to put herself on the brink of the finals. But Leahy battled back to 14-14, forcing a next-touch-wins situation. Kryczalo scored it and advanced.Providenza also faced a 14-14 score against Ohio State’s Louise Bond-Williams but only after she had emerged from a 14-12 deficit. But she capped her comeback, scoring the final touch and clinching an appearance in the finals. “Someone taught me that when you do 15-touch bouts, think of it as always zero-zero,” Providenza said. “Then you don’t [think] ‘Oh my gosh, I’m down.’ I was pretty nervous but I knew I was better.”There were no dramatic scoring swings in Walton’s semifinal against Cornell’s Meghan Phair but there was sudden death overtime. There, too, the Irish prevailed as Walton became the fourth Notre Dame finalist.