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ND Fencing: Men, women slice up Duke Duals 4-0, 4-0

Ken Fowler | Monday, February 12, 2007

Flat tires can slow Notre Dame, they just can’t stop the Irish.

After arriving in Durham, N.C., seven hours before Friday’s 9 a.m. start of the Duke Duals, Notre Dame started sluggishly but rebounded to dominate the rest of the tournament.

The No. 4 Irish women and No. 5 Irish men each went 4-0 in team bouts over North Carolina, Duke, Johns Hopkins and Air Force. The team collected five of the six cups presented to the best team in each weapon for both men and women.

“We expected that we can win but it’s always good to be sure and get this result,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “Of course it was not easy in some certain cases.”

The Notre Dame men, who competed Friday, arrived at their hotel a little before 2 a.m. that day because of mechanical trouble at O’Hare International Airport.

The men’ sabre team lost five of nine matches against the Tar Heels to kick off the competition, but the foilists’ recovered with a 8-1 performance against UNC. Coincidentally, the foilists’ 5-4 loss to Duke cost the Irish the cup in their weapon, which went to the Blue Devils.

Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said once the sabres got their adrenaline going, they found their rhythm. The group went 7-2 against Duke and Air Force and 9-0 versus Johns Hopkins.

Sophomore Bill Thanhouser’s 10-2 mark lead the way for the unit, and senior Matt Stearns finished 9-3. In the epee, junior Greg Howard went 8-2 while senior Aaron Adjemian and sophomore Karol Kostka went 8-3.

Senior Frank Bontempo went 9-1 in the foil while teammate Jakub Jedrkowiak finished 9-3.

On the women’s side, senior sabre Valerie Providenza went 12-0 to reach 173 regular-season wins in the weapon, breaking the old Irish women’s record set by Destanie Milo (166 wins).

Providenza’s performance came on a day in which the Irish had only one close call, a 16-11 win over Air Force. The Falcons led 10-9 through 19 bouts, but the Irish won five in a row to seal the victory. The match included five sudden deaths in the nine-epee bouts and 10 bouts decided by one touch.

Individually, junior foilist Melanie Bautista’s (7-0), sophomore foilist Emilie Prot (8-1), sophomore sabre Ashley Serrette (10-2) and senior epeeists Eleanor Leighton (10-3) and Amy Orlando (8-3) led the way for the Irish women.

Despite the strong showing without top performers senior sabre Patrick Ghattas and freshman epeeist Kelley Hurley, Bednarski is keeping a cool head about the team.

“We still need [to] work – work hard to improve – because such competition is where we prove ourselves against the best teams,” he said.

The Irish duel next at the Northwestern Duals Feb. 24.