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Fencing

Notre Dame to compete in Midwest regionals

| Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Coming off a pair of ACC titles, Notre Dame gets set to take the strip for the upcoming NCAA midwest regional qualifier on Saturday, March 12, at the French Fieldhouse in Columbus, Ohio.

The men’s and women’s teams swept all honors at the ACC championships last weekend. Irish head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia said he was proud of his teams’ performance but said their focus on regionals is unwavering.

“As great as being ACC champs in both men and women is, it means nothing going forward,” Kvaratskhelia said. “Our opponents won’t think about it, so why should we? I’m confident in our kids and staff to prepare so that we will do well at regionals.”

Kvaratskhelia also said he is not concerned about how spring break will affect his fencers.

“Our kids are well-seasoned in terms of fencing competition,” Kvaratskhelia said. “They know what they need to do to prepare themselves. Our 20-hour maximum time period does not apply over break, so we have complete freedom to work as long as we would like. That said, we’ll balance physical and mental work with recovery time to try and get everyone to their peak for regionals.”

The Irish will arguably face their toughest competition yet, including three top-10 teams.

“We respect every single person and school we will face next weekend,” Kvaratskhelia said. “We know them all very well. Our strongest competition as a team will be Ohio State on both the men’s and women’s sides, Northwestern on the women’s side and Wayne State, who has several excellent competitors.

“We know them, they know us. We all want the same thing — those precious slots at NCAAs, whether as qualifiers from our region or as at-large selections.”

The NCAA’s 2016 regional allocations allow for 27 fencers from the midwest region to move on to the final tournament. Last year, Notre Dame qualified the maximum number of 12 entrants from one school, and Kvaratskhelia aims to do that again.

“It’s difficult for me to single out any one person who will do best,” Kvaratskhelia said. “My hope is that we fence well enough so that the choice of whom to send to NCAAs is in our hands, and that it will be a difficult choice. That’s the kind of dilemma I would be thrilled to have.”

The Irish have been competitive at the national level for several years now, but Kvaratskhelia said his team has made great improvements beyond that foundation since the start of the season.

“I’m very happy with our progression,” Kvaratskhelia said. “We’ve improved markedly since the season began in November. We’re capable of further improvement, and our kids are willing to put in the work to get there. The way we fenced at ACCs was almost exactly where we wanted to be heading into regionals.”

The Irish hope to take that momentum with them as they travel to Columbus next weekend for the NCAA midwest regional at Ohio State’s French Fieldhouse on Saturday.

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