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Women top No. 1 Penn State

Michael Blasco | Monday, February 2, 2009

Notre Dame’s No. 1 men’s fencing team (13-0) and No. 2 women’s fencing team (12-2) combined for an 11-0 record at day one of the Northwestern Duals this weekend in Evanston, Ill. Both squads posted victories over top-ranked Penn State teams.

The men turned in wins over Johns Hopkins (23-4), Northwestern (20-7), Cleveland State (24-3), No. 10 North Carolina (21-6), and Penn State (14-13), who currently are tied with the Irish atop the USFCA poll.

On the women’s side, the team went 6-0 with wins against John’s Hopkins (25-2), Penn State (19-8), No. 8 Temple (19-8), Farleigh Dickinson (24-3), Lawrence (25-2) and Wayne State (23-4).

The teams’ early success has established the young Notre Dame fencers as one of the toughest squads in the country, and Irish coach Janusz Bednarski has his eyes set on his third national championship in seven years with the program.

The highlight of the first day of competition was the men’s team’s 14-3 bout against rival Penn State. Holding a narrow 13-12 lead late in the match, Bednarski made a late substitution, placing sophomore Jacob Osborne into the epee lineup. Osborne fell behind 4-3 in the 5-touch bout, but rattled off the next two points to clinch the match for the Irish.

“[Osborne] is a fencer who can win against anybody,” Bednarski said. “At the same time, he can run the technical show and score sophisticated touches as he gets more stable and more mature in his bouts.”

The Notre Dame women put on a clinic against Penn State, with a dominating 19-8 blowout against the first-ranked rival. Sophomores epeeist Ewa Nelip, foilist Hayley Reese, and sabre Eileen Hassett each went undefeated at 3-0 in the match, with Reese’s second victory against the 2007 National Champion, sophomore foilist Doris Willette.

“Reese is a young fencer who can not stand to lose. Defeat is not an option when she is coming onto the strip,” Bednarski said. “She is a very intelligent player who forces opponents to fence her way.”

The Northwestern Duals concluded Sunday afternoon. The men squared off against Wayne State and No. 3 Ohio State in the afternoon, while the women took on Cleveland State and No. 3 Ohio State in the morning. Results were not available as of Sunday night.