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Fencing: ND heads to match at Duke

Ken Fowler | Friday, February 9, 2007

Notre Dame’s trip to Durham, N.C. for the Duke Duals got off to a bumpy start.

Sitting in O’Hare International Airport waiting for his team’s flight, all Irish coach Janusz Bednarski wanted, quite literally, was for his squad to get off the ground.

By 9 p.m. Thursday, Notre Dame’s flight had been delayed four hours due to tire problems on the plane scheduled for the 750-mile flight. And the Irish were just hoping to get to North Carolina in time for the competition, which begins at 9 this morning.

“I don’t want to be sitting here,” Bednarski said by telephone. “I would rather have us be fencing. … We are sitting and waiting for information. I just hope we will make it today.”

When the Irish finally arrive at the two-day Duals, they will have a new set of problems.

The field at Duke includes Air Force, Duke, Johns Hopkins and North Carolina. The Falcons are ninth in the current USFCA poll on the men’s side while the Blue Devils received votes but are outside the top 10 in both the men’s and women’s rankings.

Last week at the Midwest Duals, the Irish finished 3-0 on both the men’s and the women’s side. The Notre Dame men beat Indiana 22-5, Michigan State 20-7 and Purdue 24-3.

The Irish women topped the Hoosiers 23-4, the Spartans 25-2 and the Boilermakers 27-0.

The women foilists turned in the best performance for Notre Dame, finishing 27-0.

But Bednarski knows the Irish must do even better to beat the top teams at Duke.

“I hope they will fence better than last week,” he said. “The strongest challenge will be on the side of the epee fencers. … It will be a challenge for our epees, both women and men.”

Air Force senior epeeist Jason Stockdale finished eighth in the 2006 NCAA Championships. The Falcons will also challenge the Irish in the sabre, Bednarski said.

“They are expanding their program,” Bednarski said of Air Force. “I believe that they will be a challenge for our girls, especially.”

On the men’s side of the sabre, the Irish will be without 2006 NCAA runner-up Patrick Ghattas. The senior will be competing in international competition this weekend to garner points and increase his national ranking ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

No matter the personnel problems, Bednarski said Duke is always a tough environment.

“It’s a lot of noise, a lot of cheering and a lot of emotions going around,” he said.

That is, if the Irish ever get there.