Irish fencers win big at Ohio State
Josh Dulany | Monday, November 17, 2014
Notre Dame opened the season strong with a solid weekend of competition, as both the men and women were victorious at the Buckeye Elite Cup in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday.The weekend technically began on Friday with a home exhibition against Northwestern, which the Irish won, 60-45. But Irish coach Gia Kvaratskhelia said the team focused on enjoying itself Friday before bearing down for Sunday’s regular-season action.
“Northwestern was a fun exhibition and largely about introducing the larger student body to the sport of fencing as well as performing for alums who were on campus,” Kvaratskhelia said. “It was a fun event to start the season, but the real business actually occurred on Sunday when we had to face four of the top six ranked teams in Columbus.”
At Ohio State, the Irish men went 4-1, while the women were a perfect 5-0. The men’s squad knocked off Pennsylvania, 18-9, behind unblemished efforts from the two freshmen sabres, Ian Jones and Jonah Shainberg. Notre Dame then clobbered North Carolina, 24-3, and took down Princeton, 19-8, before facing Penn State. Against the Nittany Lions, the Irish sabres struggled, as Penn State won the weapon, 7-2, on its way to a 14-13 overall win. However, the Irish bounced back and dispatched the host Buckeyes, 15-12, to end the day.
On the women’s side, the Irish cruised to four easy wins and pulled out a fifth victory over Princeton, 16-11. Notre Dame was led by freshman sabre Francesca Russo, who posted a 13-1 bout record to lead all fencers. Kvaratskhelia said he applauded the way she not only fenced at a high level, but showed leadership and maturity.
“The whole team was solid, but freshman Francesca Russo was a leader amongst all weapons,” Kvaratskhelia said. “She had the best record at 13-1 and truly established herself as a national championship contender down the road. The sabre was the most wanted weapon for us coming into the season, and Russo, who is a junior world champion, should really be a focal point for us throughout the season.”
Russo’s effort stood out, but Kvaratskhelia said he was pleased to see how the entire team came together as a unit.
“Surprisingly, things went very smooth,” Kvaratskhelia said. “This early and already the freshmen performed better than expected, and our returning upperclassmen held their serve in terms of just doing really well. That combination was pretty much a stellar performance.”
When asked what the team learned about itself, Kvaratskhelia said he felt the competition had helped shed light on all fronts.
“I think all missions were accomplished for us,” Kvaratskhelia said. “We were able to see how cohesive we are and the chemistry we have across the weapons and internally in the squad. Also, for the team, they were able to learn about each other and how to face pressure.”
Next up for Notre Dame is a visit to State College, Pennsylvania, for the Penn State Garret Open. The competition will primarily serve as a chance for second-string team members to get exposure to competition, as the Irish’s top talent will spend the week at World Championships.
The Penn State Garret Open is a two-day event that takes place Saturday and Sunday.