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Fencing: Freshmen impress at Invitational

Ken Fowler | Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Call it a freshman frenzy in A-Town.Notre Dame’s strong showing at the North American Cup event in Atlanta concluded Monday with three more notable finishes by first-year fencers. Freshman Hayley Reese cracked the top-12 of the women’s foil senior division. Reese finished second in the junior division earlier in the weekend, behind only foil prodigy Nzihgha Prescod.”Hayley is a girl who has been in every competition, you know,” Irish assistant coach Gia Kvaratskhelia said from Atlanta. “This time she barely missed final eight. … I think the tournament was very hard, but her going that far was surprising for me.”Kvaratskhelia said Reese would have made the final eight if not for a slew of controversial calls by the officials. With six seconds remaining, he said, Reese advanced and appeared to score a touch that would have tied the bout at 9-9 and sent it to overtime. But the referee ruled it a score for the opponent, and Reese lost 10-8.”She lost to a four-time world team member, and it came down to the wire,” Kvaratskhelia said of Reese. “She was very disappointed. … She could taste it. It was there.”Meanwhile, freshman Eileeen Hasset took the bronze in the women’s sabre junior division, and freshman Jacob Osborne earned a top-16 finish in the junior men’s epee competition.The Cup included fencers from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico, all seeking to earn points to qualify for national team competitions and this season’s World Championships.On Saturday and Sunday, Irish freshman Ewa Nelip won the open division of the women’s epee competition, and junior Karol Kostka captured the bronze in the 250-competitor men’s epee senior division.”I think our whole team made a huge, huge statement with this competition – that we’re not just competitive at the NCAA level, but we’re competitive at the national circuit,” Kvaratskhelia. The Irish will try to use the momentum from the finishes in Atlanta Saturday when they travel to New York City for the NYU Duals. There, Notre Dame will fence most of the top teams from the Midwest and Northeast, including Notre Dame’s bitter rival, Ohio State.

Note:The U.S. Fencing Coaches Association released its first set of rankings for the season. Notre Dame is No. 1 on the women’s side and No. 3 on the men’s side.