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Fencing: ND finishes third in NCAA field

Chris Masoud | Thursday, May 13, 2010

After posting a third-place finish at the 2010 NCAA Championship and being the consensus top team in the nation for the better part of the season, most programs would call it another successful year. But after falling short two years in a row to Penn State on the final day of competition, the Irish left the strip with anything but satisfaction.

“You know it could be a dream year because of the results of the season,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “We were No. 1 on all polls in the nation, we were breaking all records in a number of victories, and everything looked very well. The biggest problem was that we wanted to get the gold medal, but it was not easy.”

Bednarski attributed this year’s finish to a lack of experience, as the nucleus of the team was made up of freshman and sophomores. However, he said he also believes a change in the fencing format from the regular season to the championships was a contributing factor.

Unlike the regular season, the individual team rosters were limited to accommodate the much larger field at the championships. Bednarski said the reduced roster prevented Notre Dame’s depth from playing a significant factor in the team competition.

“It’s like basketball, when you play five-on-five for the regular season, and then in the last match for a final it’s done two-on-two,” Bednarski said. “It’s changing the situation — it’s more random.”

Nevertheless, sophomore Gerek Meinhardt picked up the gold medal in the individual foil competition, while sophomore foilist Enzo Castellani and junior sabreist Avery Zuck both earned bronze medals. Sophomore Courtney Hurley took home the bronze medal in the epee.

“I have to focus hard against every competitor,” Meinhardt said. “Because I’m at the top, people want to bring me down.”

Bednarski said Meinhardt, the youngest U.S. male Olympian in 2008, brings much-needed experience and poise to a young team.

“Experience in the Olympic games shows two things,” Bednarski said. “First, it shows that you are a good defender who can play at the highest level of professional fencing. Second, it shows that you can fight on the big stage in front of all the cameras. This will bring calm to a young team that can easily get nervous.”

Although nothing is certain in sports, Bednarski expects next year’s squad to be laden with talent and battle-tested for the big moments.

“Each year is different because we don’t know who will come to support them [players] next year,” head coach Janusz Bednarski said. “We know that we have a core team that is very strong and very young.”