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OSU ousts Irish at conference tournament

Matt Mooney | Wednesday, March 17, 2004

The Notre Dame fencing team stayed at home over spring break to host the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships on March 6-7 but still found itself in a foreign location – second place.Ohio State (No. 5 men, No. 2 women) came into the Joyce Center and took both the men’s and the women’s title, marking the first time in 20 years that the Irish did not take first in either division.The Buckeyes won five of the six events while Notre Dame did not win a single title. Second-place finishes were the best the Irish could muster, losing the men’s epee final, the women’s saber final and the women’s foil final – all to Ohio State. The Notre Dame teams took second place in each of their respective divisions.For the Buckeyes, the win avenged the losses suffered by their men’s and women’s teams at the hands of the Irish during their last visit to the Joyce Center. Notre Dame defeated the Ohio State men 15-12 and the women 14-13 at the Notre Dame Dual Meet on Jan. 31. Head coach Janusz Bednarski attributed the poor play to a couple factors, but cited attrition as the primarily reason.”We don’t have all the best fencers at this moment for different reasons,” he said. “The teams we beat on the way had a big will to win. We had a will but when you don’t have somebody with you it’s hard to [win].”One of the missing Irish was senior All-American and 2002 NCAA epee champion Kerry Walton, who was invited to try out for the United States National Fencing Team. Two other seniors, All-American foilist Derek Snyder and foilist Matt Castellan, did not suit up for personal reasons. Also, even though freshman saber Angela Vincent did fence, she had been in the hospital the night before with an illness.While the lack of star power did contribute to the loss, the Irish also received uncharacteristically poor performances from normally reliable squads. The women’s foil team, which includes the “A-Team” of Alicja Kryzcalo and Andrea Ament, lost their final by a narrow 5-4 margin. Women’s saber dropped their championship match as well, losing three consecutive bouts and falling by a 5-3 score.The men’s saber team fared even worse. The usually dynamic freshman tandem of Patrick Ghattas and Matthew Stearns could not make it out of the semifinals as they were blanked 5-0 by Ohio State. Buckeye saber Adam Crompton, who Bednarski called “a top fencer in the nation”, returned from an academic suspension that had kept him out of the Notre Dame Dual Meet to help exact revenge upon the Irish. Ghattas and Stearns both were frustrated at the referee calls made during their bouts. Both argued with futility to have many calls overturned.One of the few bright spots of the day came courtesy of the women’s epee team. Without Kerry Walton, the women’s team faced an extremely difficult first bout of the day in the quarterfinals against Ohio State. However, the trio of Amy Orlando, Rebecca Chimahusky and walk-on Marielle Connor pulled off a convincing 5-2 win over the Buckeyes. The Irish were led by the play of freshman Amy Orlando, who shocked Ohio State All-American Alexandra Shklar in an intense 5-4 bout.While the team struggled as a whole, fifth-year senior Forest Walton said that poor play resulted from lack of motivation. “This really doesn’t count for anything, it doesn’t affect our individual standing and it doesn’t count towards our NCAA point total. It’s just pride for winning,” he said. “A lot of people went into this knowing that it really didn’t count for anything besides bragging rights so they kind of had a relaxed attitude.”The Irish resume practice during spring break to prepare for the NCAA Regional Qualifier on March 14. The qualifier determines which fencers will compete in the National Championships on March 25-28.