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Fencing: Irish travel to NYC for elite duals

Ken Fowler | Friday, January 25, 2008

Notre Dame fences in New York City Saturday in the most important regular-season competition on almost every elite team’s schedule.

The Irish take on the major powers of the sport in the NYU Duals this weekend, meeting with a slew of top-10 teams – Ohio State, St. John’s, Columbia, Yale and Northwestern – among others.

The only top team expected to challenge for the NCAA title this year who will not fence at the competition is Penn State. The Nittany Lions and Irish will fence at the Northwestern Duals on Feb. 2.

“It will be good just to try out our possibilities,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “Of course it will not say everything yet, even if we win or lose … but I hope the kids will fence well.”

Notre Dame will be without sophomore All-American epeeist Kelley Hurley, who will be competing in a World Cup event in Europe. The team will rely heavily on freshmen, who are expected to compose about half of the two dozen fencers slated to compete.

The Duals is similar to NASCAR’s Daytona 500, in that it is an early competition with significant consequences for the remainder of the season.

The one-day event is only Notre Dame’s second NCAA-sanctioned team event of the season. Irish fencers have competed individually in North American Cup events in Dallas; in Richmond, Va.; and in Atlanta over the past three months – but the only team event to this point has been the Air Force Western Invite. Notre Dame won both the men’s and women’s sides of that competition, which was held in Colorado Springs, Colo., from Jan. 12-13.

“For us, it would be like an NCAA final and we want to see how we can be accounted for,” Bednarski said. “It will give us an opportunity to see how strong the others are and what the strong side of our team is.”

Because of Notre Dame’s victories at the Western Invite two weeks ago and its national rankings (No. 1 among women’s teams, No. 3 among men), Bednarski said, there will be added expectations for the Irish.

“It’s a pressure for sure. Kids, knowing we are going to the strong tournament, are very nervous – some of them,” Bednarski said. “It’s also an opportunity to deal with stress.”

The Irish left for New York Thursday morning and were scheduled to arrive in the city by Thursday night. The team will go sightseeing in the Big Apple today before having dinner with alumni, including former fencers, tonight.