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Fencing: ND?students compete in Hungary

Chris Masoud | Thursday, January 15, 2009

As the rest of the student body was enjoying a relaxing winter break, members of the Irish squad crossed swords in a Junior World Cup event held in Budapest, Hungary.

Fencers Ewa Nelip, Barron Nydam and Avery Zuck added to their point totals after a successful tournament from Jan. 3-5.

Despite being loaded with talent, the team enters the 2009 season full of questions regarding the experience and depth of its young cast. But after a successful performance in Budapest, the answers are becoming clearer.

“We have a very strong team,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “There are so many factors we can’t control on such a young team. But anything can happen.”

Nelip, who competed in the women’s epee division, earned a bronze medal in Budapest and added 20 points to her FIE ranking, the international fencers’ ranking system. Initially seeded No. 14 in the 64-person tournament, the sophomore out-touched the competition to reach the semifinals but had to settle for third place after a loss to silver medalist Erika Kirpu of Estonia.

The No. 22-ranked Nydam also flourished in the tournament, finishing in second and recording 26 points toward his FIE ranking. Competing in the men’s sabre division, Nydam cruised past the competition to the finals where he settled for his second silver medal of the season after dropping the final to Hungary native Aron Szilagyi.

Zuck added four points to his ranking after finishing in 17th, supplementing his top-five finish in the Junior World Cup in Germany.

Nelip, Nydam and Zuck are just three of a talented core of freshman and sophomores eager to begin Big East play on Jan. 24, when the Irish travel to Queens, N.Y., for a dual meet with St. John’s.

Freshman Courtney Hurley will play a key role for the women’s epee class, while her older sister Kelley brings experience as the reigning NCAA champion.

Bednarski said the Olympic experience of Kelley Hurley and freshman Gerek Meinhardt will bring poise and calmness to a maturing team.

Meinhardt, the youngest male U.S. Olympian in Beijing, still believes he has more to learn from his teammates and coaches.

“It’s a mutual relationship,” Meinhardt said. “We both gain a lot from practicing with each other.

Several Notre Dame team members will travel to Louisville, Ky., for the North American Cup D this weekend, a four-day event.