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Fencing: Ten fencers qualify for national tournament in Houston

Jack Thornton | Monday, March 6, 2006

Notre Dame finished Saturday’s Midwest Regionals with ten fencers in automatic qualifying spots and an additional two in solid position to pick up at-large bids for the NCAA Championship March 16-19 in Houston, Texas.

“We have a very young team, and I think they did their best,” assistant coach Zoltan Dudas said. “They were much more nervous than last year’s team, since they are mostly freshmen fighting and they don’t know the qulification system.” d

Sophomore women’s sabreist Mariel Zagunis led the team by winning all nine of her bouts to take first place. Taking second place Saturday were men’s epeeist Aaron Adjemian and women’s foilist Addi Nott, while Patrick Ghattas and Valerie Providenza took third place in men’s and women’s sabre, respectively.

“[The most exciting part was] I think coming out of pools undefeated, because I normally have a hard time in preliminary bouts,” Adjemian said.

In the epee, Karol Kostka and Madeleine Stephan grabbed third place to qualify for Nationals. Foilists Mark Kubik (4th) and Melanie Bautista (5th) and sabreist Matt Stearns (6th) also finished high enough to qualify.

The squad is confident regarding the chances of foilist Jakub Jedrkowiak (5th) and sabreist Amy Orlando (7th) to earn the two at-large bids for the NCAAs. Sixty percent of the qualification is based on an individual’s performance in the Regionals, with the other 40 percent coming from performance throughout the season.

“I think we’ll get them both in, because they both fenced really well this year,” Bautista said.

“Amy had a very good season and the at-large will be with her,” Dudas said. “I think that both of them will be in, so I think we’ll have a full team – a young team – but a vicious team, hungry for success.”

Ohio State, widely considered Notre Dame’s biggest rival throughout the season, qualified the maximum of six fencers on the men’s side, but managed only three from their women’s team.

“Ohio State … qualified nine directly and they’re waiting for one at large, but the women’s foil was able to knock out anyone from Ohio State from making it, so they can only get 10 at max while a full team requires 12,” Bautista said.

The weekend also featured several intense match-ups on the women’s side between Notre Dame and Northwestern.

“I think the most exciting part was knowing that I was one bout away from qualifying, and essentially for women’s foil, it was a Northwestern and Notre Dame showdown,” Bautista said. “For each qualifying spot, Notre Dame was fencing against Northwestern, so that was really excitng, and it was really exciting to see the guys fence well against Ohio State.”

With only nine Buckeyes currently qualified, Ohio State’s quest for a National Championship just got slimmer. Notre Dame can’t breathe just yet, though. Penn State has become the greatest threat, as the Nittany Lions managed to qualify the maximum of 12 fencers.

“Overall, the team we have to worry about is Penn State, because they qualified a full team at the Regionals, and they’ve always been big contenders,” Bautista said.

Penn State is currently ranked No. 2 among women’s squads and is tied for the No. 2 spot with Notre Dame for men.

“I think OSU is kind of out of the running, but now Penn State will be a big challenge, because they qualified all twelve,” Adjemian said.

The official qualifying list will be made public on Tuesday.

“I think we have a really good team… we have a lot of freshman but we have a lot of talent and I think we have a good chance,” Adjemian said.

The team will practice together over the next week before heading to Texas for the tournament, which begins the Thursday during Spring Break.

“I think we will have a close fight with Penn State and we will see if they can beat us or we can beat them,” Dudas said. “I am very confident, because maybe we do not have the best talent, but the attitude and the work ethic is better than I can ever remember.”