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Fencing: Men, women stay perfect

Kevin Baldwin | Monday, February 8, 2010

For the first time in nearly two decades, the Irish stayed perfect.

Both teams concluded their seasons at the Notre Dame duals at the Joyce Center this weekend. The Irish men’s and women’s squads now stand at 33-0 and 35-0, respectively.

“We had a good tournament here, its not easy because it’s on your own territory but we did a good job, they won everything,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said.

The men’s and women’s teams have not both finished the regular season undefeated since 1991.

This weekend’s tournament featured lopsided wins over top programs from around the region including Lawrence, Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Illinois, Chicago, Cleveland State, Purdue, Indiana and Detroit.

“We fenced a couple of conference rivals towards the end of the tournament … and we’re taking care of business here,” junior Zach Shirtz said. “Come the conference tournament I think we should easily be the top seed.”

Schirtz, along with fellow all-American junior Steve Kubik, won all of his bouts  Sunday in the men’s foil.

The Irish will use the experience gained from fencing many of these teams in March when they meet again in the Midwest conference championships. Though the dominant Northwestern women’s team faded fast Saturday, three weeks of recovery can make a significant difference requiring the Irish to stay vigilant as they enter the postseason.

“They didn’t lose their clean streak but of course we still have a lot of things to do with the conference championships coming up,” Bednarski said.

The Irish rallied around teammate Teddy Hodges, who was in attendance for the event after recovering from a viral infection last year that required a heart transplant. Last week, the team vowed to dedicate the performance to him and this weekend he was on the sidelines cheering them to victory.

“It was a big morale boost for the team because it’s like a family,” junior foilist Hayley Reese said. Reese added five wins to the team total Saturday.

Hodges, whose brother freshman Grant Hodges went 16-0 in the foil Sunday, was an inspiration to all with his story of resilience in fighting the disease that almost took his life.

“It’s the challenges that you’re presented with in life that really shape you and who you are I think it was monumental for everyone on the team to see that and to see how Teddy battled back,” Schirtz said.

The Irish will take to the strips at home again for the Midwest conference championships on March 6-7.