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ND Fencing: Youngsters take over top spots on team

Joe Meixell | Thursday, March 13, 2008

To call it a youth movement would be something of an understatement.

To call it a revival would be terribly misleading.

To ignore it would be utterly ridiculous.

Something in-between must describe the role of Notre Dame’s freshman fencing class. Seven of the 12 Irish fencers are set to compete this weekend’s NCAA Championships, hosted by Midwest nemesis Ohio State.

The strange part of the preponderance of Irish rookies is that Notre Dame didn’t appear in a position that necessitated a major influx of talented fencers. A season ago, Notre Dame finished fourth in the national event, and two of the team’s four first-team All-Americans – epeeist Kelley Hurley and foilist Adi Nott – would return for multiple future seasons.

Meanwhile, six other fencers who made it to the national event – sabreists Bill Thanhouser and Ashley Serrette, epeeists Greg Howard and Karol Kostka, and foilists Mark Kubik and Jakub Jedrkowiak – all returned.

But the Irish got reinforcements anyway.

Both Irish women’s sabreists (Sarah Borrmann and Eileen Hassett) and both Irish men’s foilists (Steve Kubik and Zach Schirtz) are freshmen. Ewa Nelip will join Hurley in women’s epee, Hayley Reese will compete with Nott in the foil and Barron Nydam will join Thanhouser in the sabre.

In fact, Notre Dame could have had eight freshmen in the national event, but senior Greg Howard barely edged out freshman Greg Schoolcraft for Notre Dame’s second men’s epee spot. Howard won the silver-medal bout at the NCAA Midwest Regional in Detroit, and Irish junior Karol Kostka topped Schoolcraft in the final. Had Howard lost the bronze medal bout or had Schoolcraft beaten Kostka, Schoolcraft would have earned the final epee spot over the three-time national competitor Howard.

Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said having a freshman-laden team is worrisome because the young fencers are not accustomed to the mental and physical rigors of the two days of bouts for each the men and women.

Of course, he also hopes that this appearance in the national championships is the first of four for the super seven.