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Providenza takes home gold medal

Matt Puglisi | Tuesday, November 16, 2004

For a second consecutive weekend, an Irish fencer took home a gold medal.

And, no, this time it wasn’t Olympic gold medalist freshman Mariel Zagunis.

With Zagunis resting at home, sophomore Valerie Providenza took the reins for the Irish, winning the women’s saber – one of eight top-10 and 13 top-20 Irish finishes -at the 32nd Penn State Max Garret Open this weekend.

“I think it was a strong performance – we got a medal and we were seen on all strips,” coach Janusz Bednarski said. “[The tournament had] a high level of competition – a lot of these fencers have medals or were participants of the Olympic games, so it was great to see our kids competing against them very strongly.”

The men kicked off the annual tournament, fencing Saturday.

Sophomore Paul Ghattas and Matthew Stearns placed fourth and sixth, respectively, in the saber divison, while freshman Greg Howard finished eighth in epee and freshman foilist Jakub Jedrkowiak took second, falling to Nonpatan Panchan in the finals of the men’s foil division.

“It was a good competition for Jakub,” Bednarski said. “He showed that he will be one of the challengers for the title this year. It’s good news because he’s only a freshman.”

Not to be outdone, following the four male top-10 finishers, the Notre Dame women posted four of their own Sunday.

In addition to Providenza’s victory over Ohio State’s Siobhan Byrne in the women’s saber division finals, sophomore Angela Vincent placed 10th in the saber, sophomore epeeist Amy Orlando finished fourth and senior Alicja Kryczalo posted a fourth-place finish in the foil division.

“I said [before the tournament] that some fencers would be rusty, like those who didn’t compete [last weekend],” Bednarski said. “Kryczalo lost two bouts, and she didn’t get to first place. She’s already won three NCAA championships – she just needs more bouting and competition to get to form.”

In addition to allowing the Irish to test their preseason form, the tournament also afforded them the unique opportunity to directly scout a number of fencers from a pair of key rivals in Ohio State and host Penn State.

The Buckeyes picked up five top-10 finishes over the two-day event while the Nittany Lions recorded a tournament-high 14 top-10 finishes and tied with Ohio State for division champions with a pair.

“The top of the university [rankings] is Ohio State – Penn State is very close to them, and at the moment, we are chasing them,” Bednarski said. “I think that Columbia will be very strong, and what was interesting was the very good performance from Princeton University.”

Nevertheless, while in Bednarski’s opinion the Irish are currently trailing Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Penn State, the future of Irish fencing appears bright.

“We were very happy with the performance of the young fencers,” Bednarski said. “So it is the hope that we will be progressing.”

After fencing each of the past two weekends, the Irish will take several weeks off before competing in more individual action Dec. 4 at the Culver Cup Individuals in Culver, Ind.