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Fencing: Two of nation’s best to clash

Matthew Robison | Friday, November 12, 2010

This weekend, the No. 1 Irish will face defending national champion Penn State in a matchup that will pin two of the best programs in the country head to head. In the NCAA Championships last season, Notre Dame finished third behind the Nittany Lions and St. John’s.

The matchup with the Nittany Lions has proved to be a tough one in the past and looks to be that way again this season. Last year, the Irish earned two gold medals in the matchups, and 13 other Irish performers turned in top-10 finishes.

“Our goal is to make a couple of finals, somebody should be close to the final or medal in the top four,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “It will be tough because it is a lion’s cage. Penn State are the national champions. But I believe we will make some finals.”

But, it is early in the year and most fencers are just trying to get their form down to prepare for the midseason grind.

“The fall semester is mostly for individual tournaments where fencers are getting their rank by positioning the competition,” Bednarkski said.

On top of the matchup being and early season debut for many fencers, Notre Dame’s top performers will not even be present. Sophomore Courtney Hurley and junior Ewa Nelip are in Paris this weekend for the World Championships.

That, however, should not slow the Irish down too much, according to Bednarski.

“We have a lot of good fencers that did not qualify for the national team, but they will compete well,” Bednarski said.

To prepare for such a formidable foe, the Irish have been working on their form and conditioning.

“We have had some individual sparring, simulating bouting,” Bednarski said. “There have been some fierce bouts. All of [the fencers] are trying to get starting positions, to get to the tournaments, to be able to be on the team.

Bednarski credited the efforts of his coaching staff, Jim Seacord, Gia Kvaratskhelia, and Marek Stepien, in preparing the Notre Dame squad.

“We have a lot of preseason conditioning programs,” Bednarski said. “Coach Jim Seacord did a great job, preparing them very well. We are trying to bring them to good speed, good tactical solutions, so we will see how it will be.”

The matchup gets underway this weekend Nov. 13 and 14 in University Park, Pa. The women’s squad will compete Saturday, with the men following Sunday.