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Rookies look to earn respect

Matt Mooney | Wednesday, March 24, 2004

“Young, hot, brash. With an attitude that says, ‘Who cares? It’s only” …fencing? Yes, I realize that actually quoting Zoolander in a newspaper column represents the low point in my writing career, but it fits, so work with me.The confident group I refer to with the above quotation is none other than the Notre Dame fencing team. For those of you who only know them as the reason for Grace Hall’s existence (I refer to the No. 1 atop it), it might also be relevant to know that the same fencing team is about to defend the right to keep yonder beacon alit.But you might want to take a long hard look up at the sky during your late-night quarter dog run. Despite the swagger and youthful enthusiasm that characterizes the seven newcomers, that will not be enough to defend a title won by a group of fencers who all had at least one year of collegiate fencing experience.Indeed they are young, but indeed they are good. Much has been made this season about the team’s youth and rightly so. With seven freshmen in a lineup of eighteen, the weight of defending a national title could have been enough to smother any newfound enthusiasm.But thanks in large part to the efforts of the coaching staff, the freshmen seemed to be oblivious. The freshmen saber quartet of Patrick Ghattas, Matthew Stearns, Angela Vincent and Valerie Providenza scorched their competition, piling up a composite 151-29 record. Epeeist Aaron Adjemian won the deciding bout against arch-rival Penn State to secure the men’s 14-13 victory. Amy Orlando closed out her inaugural season by winning 45 of her last 50 bouts.Yes, the freshmen breezed through their first few fencing quizzes and seemed able to do no wrong. But now it’s time for the final exam: the post-season. The fun and games of dual meets and meaningless conference championships are over. Now the team must defend the validation of its greatness, the trophy from last year’s national championship.But this will only be accomplished as a team, and that distinction could be a crucial one. The pressure of winning ‘all for one’ will be a task unlike many these rookies have ever faced. Most of them grew up fencing through clubs and only on an individual level. A loss meant they were sent home to try again, but disappointment was confined to the individual. Now the expectations of a team and a school rest on their untested shoulders. As successful as each of their respective seasons have been, it may not be enough to bring home a second straight championship.Don’t get me wrong, it has been a great run for the Irish fencers this year.With only one loss between the two squads, the young group has achieved more than many people thought. But a more experienced field is the only thing that will stop them from repeating as national champions. Though now might be a good time to start writing a eugoogoly for our illuminated digit, rest assured it will not be out for long.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.Contact Matt Mooney at mmooney@nd.edu.