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Fencing: Team faces challenge with USFA

Chris Masoud | Friday, December 4, 2009

The Irish look to send a strong message to the rest of the fencing world at the United States Fencing Association (USFA) North American Cup this weekend as they wrap up the individual season of bouts. With intercollegiate play approaching, the Irish will compete to raise their individual rankings against the toughest field on the continent.

“This is the North American Cup, which is bringing all the best fencers from Canada and all the states,” head coach Janusz Bednarski said. “This tournament is like a tryout for the national team, with points going towards world cup tournaments and world cup championships, so it’s a very strong tournament.”

Unlike previous events, the Irish will enter the invitational at full strength, which includes two of the most highly touted fencers in the country in sophomores Courtney Hurley and Gerek Meinhardt. Hurley recently returned from Germany where she captured her third consecutive gold medal in a junior world cup in November.

But Bednarski believes all of his fencers will be tested in the upcoming open tournament, where junior category players will compete against the nation’s elite.

“It’s hard to predict,” Bednarski said. “I know that only a few of them can get a medal, or even the possibility to get a medal, because it’s the strongest tournament on the continent. Now we are swimming in much bigger waters.”

Nevertheless, Bednarski and the entire coaching staff are excited by the opportunity open to the underclassmen to prove their mettle on the highest level. Rising stars such as freshman Lian Osier and sophomore Radmila Sarkisova will have the chance to earn international recognition.

“A lot of the younger fencers are not yet maybe well known in the world or in the country because fencers like Hurley, Meinhardt and others were getting medals at the world championships,” Bednarski said. “But the young group, they will try to show that at the end of the competition they are aspiring to be on the national team.”

One of the team’s greatest assets is its commitment to teamwork and unselfish play. A strong sense of unity and great team chemistry can only serve the Irish well in the future as they compete against the best teams in the nation.

“We have a great transmission of experience from the older players to the others. They are helping them a lot. It’s a part of the game also to get older by helping the younger, so the group is very close together and the atmosphere is great. The coaches are helping to build this atmosphere, and we are having a good season so far.”