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Fencing: Irish struggle at St. John’s and NYU, claim few victories

Matthew Robison | Sunday, January 22, 2012

The No. 4 Irish men and No. 3 women hit an early season bump as they emerged with just 12 total wins from both the St. John’s Dual and NYU Duals.

On Saturday at the St. John’s Dual, both the men and women came out 2-3. The men beat No. 3 Harvard and No. 6 St. John’s, but fell to No. 1 Penn State, No. 5 Ohio State and Columbia. The women claimed victories against No. 7 Harvard and Columbia, but fell to No. 1 Penn State, No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 St. John’s.

Sunday brought much of the same for the men, as they beat NYU, Yale and North Carolina but lost to Columbia, Ohio State and St. John’s. The women fared better, with wins over NYU, St. John’s, Yale, Northwestern and Ohio State, and just one loss to Columbia.

Junior epee James Kaull said the weekend was tough, but not a complete disappointment.

“We always expect to win everything,” Kaull said. “There’s been a big fight from some of the other teams. We kind of had to grind out a lot of our victories.”

Last season, the Irish coasted through the regular season en route to a national championship, so the struggles are a bit unfamiliar for the Irish, Kaull said.

“It’s a big contrast from last year when we just kind of rolled through,” Kaull said. “[The weekend’s results were] a bit low, but it’s not discouraging.”

Last week in practice, Irish coach Janusz Bednarski noted great cooperation between the veteran members of the squad and the younger fencers. With four of those veterans not in action for Notre Dame at the beginning of the season — they were qualifying for the 2012 London Summer Olympics — some of the younger fencers were forced to prove their mettle early on, a challenge they seemed prepared for, Kaull said.

“A lot of people have had to step up naturally,” Kaull said. “We did do a good job making sure [the younger fencers] were ready and mentally prepared for the stresses of college fencing. It’s a lot different.”

As opposed to fencing individually in competitions before the collegiate level, fencing in the NCAA is much more team-oriented, Kaull said. A fencer’s results not only impact his own performance and standings, but contribute to whether or not the team wins the match. For the underclassmen, though, it’s all about effort.

“As long as you go out and fight and put forth an effort, no one can ask anything more of you,” Kaull said. “We made our effort and we just hope that they can learn from this experience.”

Next weekend, the Irish will stay on campus as they host the Notre Dame Duals. The women will compete Saturday and the men will compete Sunday.

This week, the focus will be on mental preparation and adjustments, Kaull said.

“I think that we just kind of want to fine tune more of the mental things. You can’t really change a lot physically in one week, “Kaull said. “So you just kind of want to focus on the things you can control on the spot, like being more aggressive in this situation and being less aggressive in this situation. You just hope that you can go out there and execute.”

Notre Dame will be back in action Saturday at home in the Notre Dame Duals.


Contact Matthew Robison at mrobison@nd.edu