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Irish to compete in Junior World Cup event

Matt Mooney | Friday, November 5, 2004

In what may prove to be a valuable tune up for regular season NCAA competition, several Irish fencers will travel to Louisville this weekend to compete in a Junior World Cup event.Five of the six starting sabers will travel to Kentucky including the women’s trio of Olympic gold medalist Mariel Zagunis, defending national champion Valerie Providenza and Angela Vincent. Matthew Stearns and Patrick Ghattas will represent men’s saber.Epeeists Amy Orlando, Aaron Adjemian and Greg Howard and freshman foilist Diego Quinonez round out the Notre Dame participants.However, rather than compete for their respective schools, the fencers will take to the strip for their countries. All of the Irish fencers will represent the United States except for Quinonez who will represent his native country of El Salvador. The event will feature world-class fencers from around the globe and Irish coach Janusz Bednarski knows that this is a rare opportunity for some of his protégés.”You have to be chosen by the national coach by a system of selection which they have by points,” he said. “It’s not open for everybody.”World Cup competitions are held several times throughout the year. The fencers face off against their international opponents trying to jockey for both national and world rankings.Bednarski strongly encourages his fencers to participate in these events because he feels the caliber of the opponents is far stronger than on any collegiate level.”Simply, they have to fence with opponents who represent their level en masse,” he said. “If they compete only in [collegiate] competition, they have one or two or three good opponents. In the World Cup they will have 20. The level of the competition should be to the level of their technical development and tactical knowledge.”The Irish will need to compete at a high level if they hope to be successful against what appears to be an imposing schedule. With five regular season confrontations with last year’s top two national finishers, Bednarski wants his players to be as sharp as possible.Notre Dame will fence archrival and 2004 National Runner-Up Penn State next week in its first tournament of the year. Then in late January, the Nittany Lions pay a visit to South Bend for the Notre Dame Duals.Perhaps even more notably, the Irish will fence against defending national champion Ohio State three times during the regular season.Last year, Notre Dame defeated the Buckeyes during the teams’ one regular season matchup. However, the Irish then failed to defend both their Midwest Fencing Conference Championship and NCAA Championship crowns, losing both to Ohio State.”[These are] two teams who are very strong and last year they were the teams who were above us, Penn State and Ohio State,” Bednarski said. “Both teams will be fencing with the same fencers. In my opinion, we are in the same position as last year, third. But we have to fight.”Bednarski hopes to avoid a repeat of last year’s performance by having his fencers ready to perform at a high level from day one.”We hope that Ghattas can get a medal,” he said. “He was third in the first World Cup [event] two weeks ago and Zagunis won [that] competition. We will have a lot of kids but the competition is very strong so if we get one or two medals we will be very happy.”