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Fencing: Irish tally eight victories at St. John’s Invitational

Observer Staff Report | Monday, January 28, 2013

Notre Dame began the winter season in winning fashion this weekend, as the Irish men and women combined to claim eight dual match victories Saturday in the St. John’s Invitational and seven victories in Sunday’s NYU Invitational.  

The No. 2-ranked women were 5-0 in their head-to-head contests Saturday, all of those wins coming against top-10 opponents. 

Senior captain Courtney Hurley put on one of the strongest performances of the weekend in Saturday’s competition. The veteran epee posted a 13-1 mark at St. John’s. 

Freshman Lee Kiefer led the way in Saturday’s women’s foil, recording a 9-3 record in her NCAA debut. 

The women’s sabre squad helped keep the Irish women perfect at St. John’s by recording a pair of team bout wins against No. 8 Harvard and No. 3 Columbia. Seniors Lian Osier and Abigail Nichols each posted 8-7 individual records on the day.

In Sunday’s action, the women put on another strong showing but couldn’t quite stay undefeated, going 4-1 with their lone loss coming by one point to No. 3 Columbia. 

The No. 3 Irish men went 3-2 in their Saturday duals. One of the victories came against defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Ohio State. The pair of Irish team losses came against No. 2 Penn State and No. 5 St. John’s.

Several of the Irish men opened their individual seasons on strong notes at St. John’s as well, including senior James Kaull (13-2 in men’s epee) and junior Ariel DeSmet (13-2 in the foil.) Freshman Garrett McGrath was also solid in the epee, going 12-3 on Saturday.

The men’s sabre squad was 4-1 on Saturday, losing only to Penn State. Junior Kevin Hassett and freshman John Hallsten went 9-6 and 8-7 respectively for the day.

In Sunday’s competition the men again went 3-2, claiming victories against Yale, North Carolina and NYU and dropping two to No. 7 Columbia and No. 5 St. John’s.

Overall it was a successful weekend for the Irish, who will use the two-day competition as a building block for the rest of the season. 

“The New York trip is always big for us because it’s our first real test to see how we stack up to the other teams,” Kaull said. “There was a lot of nervous energy among the younger ones but I think on the first day everyone performed really well. On the second day I think everyone realized how grueling a two-day tournament is and there was a little bit of a drop off. But I think that’s actually a learning experience.”

Now in his fourth season, the veteran Kaull said the Irish will benefit from playing such talented competition early in the season.

“I like [the competition] because you get to see where you’re at and what you need to work on,” Kaull said. “If you see guys later in the season you only have so much time to figure out how to adjust your game, so if you see them early on, you can remember what you have to do and tailor your practice according to that.”

Notre Dame returns to action at the Northwestern Duals in Evanston, Ill., on Saturday.