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No. 2 Irish won’t face No. 1 OSU

Joe Meixell | Friday, February 4, 2005

When the No. 1 and No. 2 teams are in the same gym at the same time, the sporting world expects a great athletic contest.

That world will be sorely disappointed this weekend, as the Irish, who are No. 2 in the women’s polls and No. 4 in the men’s, will not line up against consensus No. 1 Ohio State this weekend, despite traveling to Columbus to compete in the Ohio State duals.

According to NCAA fencing rules, teams are not allowed to face each other more than twice during the regular season, and the two teams have already squared off in both the NYU Duals and the Notre Dame Duals, and while the women exacted revenge with a 16-11 win at their host tournament a week after falling 14-13, the men lost 16-11 in both matches. Since the Irish and Buckeyes have already maxed out their time together, Saturday’s duals will be without a marquee matchup.

Irish head coach Janusz Bednarski is glad that at least one of his teams got their vengeance against their rival at the top.

“Most teams we will fence only once, but Ohio [State] demanded revenge, and we beat them [last weekend],” he said.

Because his team will not see Ohio State, Bednarski does not expect the weekend to be challenging for his squads.

“It is another encounter, and we always have to be serious; but it looks as though it will be easy because the teams aren’t highly ranked,” he said.

The teams that make up this unintimidating field include Bowling Green, Case Western, Cleveland State, Detroit, Michigan, Michigan State, Oberlin, Purdue and Wayne State. The highlight bouts for the Irish will likely come against Wayne State, as Irish fifth-year Kerri Walton and sophomore Amy Orlando, both of whom were extremely successful last weekend, will face defending NCAA champion Anna Garina of Wayne State.

The Irish will also be rejoined by Olympic Gold Medalist and freshman sabre Mariel Zagunis, who missed all but two matches in last Sunday’s duals to fly home to take part in the annual Oregon Sports Awards. Zagunis won the 2004 Bill Hayward for the Amateur Female Athlete of the Year and despite the accomplishment and the length of travel, Zagunis was back at Notre Dame by Monday afternoon.

“I was really only home about 12 hours,” she said.

The men’s team will be led by senior Michal Sobieraj and sophomore Aaron Adjemian, the backbone of a men’s epee unit that has yet to be beaten this season, winning all 16 of their matches and a primary source of the men’s team’s success.

While the event may not have the competition the Irish have grown accustomed to in the last few weeks, Bednarski is quick to point out that it should under no circumstances be overlooked.

“It’s important to get a good rank for the Midwest Conference, and this [weekend’s event] has tournament seeding implications,” he said.