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Fencing: Irish prepare for NCAA competition

A.J. Godeaux | Thursday, March 21, 2013

With individual titles and a ninth NCAA team title on their minds, twelve Notre Dame fencers will take to the strips this Thursday through Sunday at the NCAA championship in San Antonio, Texas, making it the sixth consecutive year the Fighting Irish have a dozen fencers in the meet. 

The opportunity is one every fencer cherishes, sophomore foilist Madison Zeiss said. Zeiss is making her second NCAA championship appearance.

“The atmosphere at a meet like this is definitely stressful,” Zeiss, said. “Everyone here is incredibly determined and focused, but everyone knows what an honor it is to be here so it’s awesome to be here.”

Joining Zeiss in San Antonio is fellow foilist Lee Kiefer, a freshman who’s looking to add an NCAA Championship title to an already impressive resume whichsincludes a sixth place finish in last summer’s Olympics. The two are coming off a remarkable NCAA Midwest Regional meet March 9 and 10, with Kiefer taking the top spot on the podium and Zeiss following right behind in second.

Seniors Courtney Hurley and Ewa Nelip will be making their fourth appearance at the NCAA championships. Hurley, who is 60-10 in her previous three trips, took third in both the 2009 and 2010 national meets, and won it all in 2011. Nelip too has two bronze medals to her name, winning hers in 2008 and 2009.

Like Zeiss, senior sabreuse Lian Osier is making her second appearance at the national meet, while freshman newcomer Johanna Thill will be making her first appearance. Osier finished second in the NCAA regional meet with a 13-2 record, while Thill finished fifth, going 10-5 in her bouts.

The men’s squad will be led by past national champions in senior foilist and two-time Olympian Gerek Meinhardt, the 2010 champion, and junior Ariel DeSmet, who took the foil title in 2011. This will be third NCAA appearance for Meinhardt and the second for DeSmet, as both missed last year’s season because of Olympic training. Like Zeiss and Kiefer, Meinhardt and DeSmet finished one-two in the regional meet, with Meinhardt outlasting DeSmet to win gold.

Freshman John Hallsten, who won the NCAA Midwest Regional sabre draw to punch his ticket to San Antonio, and junior Kevin Hassett, the third place finisher at the regional meet, will compete in sabre at the NCAA championship. Hassett is returning for the second consecutive year after finishing seventh in last year’s national meet. Freshman epeeist Garret McGrath, the Midwest Conference Champion, and junior epeeist Michael Rossi, the bronze medalist in the Midwest Regional, round out the men’ squad.

The entire squad made the trip down to San Antonio to cheer on their teammate,, Zeiss said. Winning a team title for Notre Dame would be “everything we have wanted.” she said.

“No matter how individual the tournament is, to win a title for Notre Dame…would mean so much,” Zeiss said.

The men’s bouts take place Thursday and Friday, while the women take to the strips on Saturday and Sunday. The meet will bs held at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio.

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