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Fencing: Irish dominate regional

A.J. Godeaux | Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Irish completed another stepping stone in their pursuit of a ninth NCAA title, turning in a dominating performance at the NCAA Midwest Regional meet March 9 and 10.

After excelling above the competition at the Midwest Conference Championships on March 2 and 3, the Irish didn’t let off the gas pedal, going up against much of the same competition in the regional meet.

The foilists were particularly impressive on the women’s side, with freshman Lee Kiefer and sophomore Madison Zeiss finishing one-two in a field of 20 foilists. The two combined for a 35-3 record, with Kiefer’s only loss coming to fellow Olympian Mona Shaito of Ohio State. Zeiss’ only two defeats came at the hands of teammates. She fell to Kiefer and senior Grace Hartman.

“We train really hard with each other,” Zeiss said. “That was definitely a key [to our success], and we were able to get our teammate bouts out of the way early, which is definitely a plus in a meet like this.”

The epeeists did not disappoint either, with senior Courtney Hurley dominating with a 14-1 record to take first. Senior Ewa Nelip and sophomore Ashley Severson both posted 11-4 records, with Nelip taking fourth, while Severson took fifth based on tiebreakers.

Senior Lian Osier claimed a runner-up finish in the women’s sabre, while freshman Johanna Thill grabbed fifth place for the Irish.

As impressive as the women’s foilists were, the men’s foilists may have managed to turn in an even better performance. Past NCAA champions senior Gerek Meinhardt (2010) and junior Ariel DeSmet (2011) ran away from the field, as both defeated 2012 NCAA champion Zain Shaito of Ohio State. The two fenced for the title, with Meinhardt avenging an earlier pool play loss to DeSmet to take the top spot on the podium.

In the sabre event, there was yet another fence-off between two Irish for first, as freshman John Hallsten outlasted senior Jason Choy to take the regional crown. Junior Kevin Hassett took third in the event, giving the Irish another strong weapon performance.

Junior Michael Rossi turned in a solid third-place finish in the epee event for the Irish, including a win in pool play against eventual champion Marco Canevari of Ohio State. Freshman Garrett McGrath took fifth in his first Regional meet, while senior James Kaull took sixth in his last time on the strips for the Irish.

The Irish qualified twelve fencers for the NCAA Championship, the maximum number possible, for the sixth consecutive year.

Zeiss said that feat was definitely expected, especially with this team’s unity.

“We have one of the best team dynamics in the country,” she said. “Though this was definitely an individual meet, to have the whole team behind you helps a lot. No matter who won or lost, everyone was so supportive of everyone else on the team.”

The Midwest Regional was the last meet of the season for all but those dozen qualifiers, who will compete at the NCAA Championships in San Antonio this weekend.

Contact A.J. Godeaux at agodeaux@nd.edu