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Fencing: Notre Dame ready to host first home duals

Ken Fowler | Friday, February 8, 2008

Notre Dame hosts the best of the Midwest this weekend – with an important pair of exceptions.

Wayne State, Northwestern, Detroit Mercy and Cleveland State are among the competitors for the two-day Notre Dame Duals, but Penn State and rival Ohio State are taking the weekend off from action.

Notre Dame, ranked No. 1 on the women’s side and No. 3 among men’s teams, is coming off a strong performance at the Northwestern Duals last week. The Irish women went 11-0, while the men finished 8-2 at the event.

Though the Notre Dame women probably won’t compete against No. 6 Northwestern – they will only bout if the event moves fast enough to get in an extra round of duels – things might be a little bit tougher on the Irish this week.

Top epeeists Kelley Hurley and Ewa Nelip will be competing in Europe to gain qualifying points for the U.S. Olympic squad.

“Others have to step in and show that without these two fencers, we still are strong,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “And I believe that this will happen. … I believe that they will have enough courage and enough skill.”

In fact, one of Bednarski’s biggest concerns is that the young team might be overconfident after its performance at Northwestern. He said he has been telling the fencers to stay focused all weekend, especially against teams they have not yet faced.

“We have a lot of freshmen, so they have to learn that the best idea to have … is that it’s a big danger to be overconfident,” he said.

Bednarski considers the Notre Dame Duals the team’s last truly regular-season event. Fencers will compete individually next week at the Junior Olympics, and the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships from Feb. 23-24 determines qualifiers for the NCAA Midwest Regional competition.

Women will compete Saturday in the Joyce Center, and the men’s competition will be on Sunday.