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FENCING: Women’s squad takes out No. 1 Ohio State

Eric Retter | Monday, January 31, 2005

Revenge is sweet. The No. 2 Irish women found that out firsthand Sunday morning, as they topped No. 1 ranked Ohio State 16-11 in what turned out to be the marquee event of the two-day Notre Dame Duals, avenging a 14-13 loss from a week ago and securing an undefeated record in the event.The difference for the Irish came in the epee, where the Irish won two more duals against their Buckeye counterparts than a week ago, taking six of nine bouts. A crucial aspect of this shift was the fact that Kaela Brendler, Ohio State’s top epeeist, who finished seventh in the 2004 NCAAs, was winless against the Irish.”[The matches] are always very close, but giving Brendler three losses was huge,” epee captain Kerry Walton said. The successful effort extended beyond the epees, as the foils, led by seniors Alicja Kryczalo and Andrea Ament, who were 3-0 and 2-1 respectively against the Buckeyes, combined to take six of nine bouts against Ohio State. The match was clinched when Ament defeated senior Metta Thompson, who has finished fifth in the NCAAs each of the last three seasons, making the score 14-10.However, the Irish did have their share of difficulties during the event. Despite an undefeated effort by freshman Mariel Zagunis, the sabres struggled against Ohio State, taking only four matches. After her bouts against Ohio State, Zagunis quickly showered and left the arena in preparations of flying home to Oregon, where she is a finalist for the state’s Amateur Athlete of the Year award. With the most important matches of the event having already taken place by that time, including the duals with Penn State and Northwestern, coach Janusz Bednarski did not mind finishing out the day Sunday without one of his top fencers.”We need to give the backup fencers some experience,” he said.While the women were able to avenge their sole defeat, the No. 4 ranked men’s team was unable to beat the Buckeyes in their second try, losing by an identical 16-11 score. Despite another strong effort in the epee, where the Irish, led by senior Michael Sobieraj and sophomore Aaron Adjemian, dominated the Buckeyes 7-2, the team could not muster much of an attack in the other two weapons. The Irish attack was especially frustrated in the sabre, where Ohio State, led by two-time defending champion Adam Crompton, swept the Irish 9-0. “I expected the loss. The result is not showing the intensity of the bouts; lots of bouts were 5-4,” Bednarski said, adding “however, we should not lose 9-0.”The loss was not the only one for the Irish men, as No. 2 Penn State bettered them 15-12 on Saturday. The defeat was again characterized by an opponent’s domination in one weapon – this time in the foil. The foils, who are struggling without All-American Derek Snyder who will miss the season recovering from hand surgery, managed to win only two matches against the Nittany Lions. Led by an undefeated Soberiaj, the epeeists highlighted a 42-3 day by winning six of nine.The women, on the other hand upheld their perfect record, defeating No. 3 Penn State 16-11 on Saturday. Kryczalo, Ament, Zagunis, and sophomore sabre Valerie Providenza led the charge against the Nittany Lions, with all of them going undefeated. The match featured a rematch of the 2004 sabre title bout, as defending champ Providenza again defeated Sophia Hiss, this time by a score of 5-4. “The women’s team really did a great job,” Bednarski said.The Irish faced little other competition, as both the men’s and women’s teams rolled through the rest of the field. Despite its No. 6 ranking, Northwestern, who only fields a women’s team, proved to be no match, as the Irish easily defeated them 20-7. The women and men triumphed over Michigan by scores of 25-2 and 24-3, respectively, and both squads had identical scores against Wisconsin, Cal-State Fullerton and Michigan State by respective scores of 27-0, 25-2 and 24-3.Bednarski was pleased with Saturday’s results.”We beat Penn State in women’s, lost minimally in men, and overall we beat them,” he said. “[Saturday] was a pretty good day.”The Irish continued their success on Sunday. Other than the men’s loss to Ohio State, both teams cruised through the rest of the teams, topping Cleveland State, Detroit, Lawrence, Wayne State and Chicago without difficulty. Despite their early accomplishments, the team leaders do not seem inclined to rest on their accomplishments.”In the long run, we have to keep moving forward,” Walton said.