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Fencing

Squad heads into ACC championships with hopes to repeat

| Thursday, February 23, 2017

This weekend, Notre Dame will compete in the ACC championships in Durham, North Carolina. Both the men’s and women’s sides have had strong seasons so far, with the men sitting at 10-4 to earn them a ranking of fourth in the nation and the women’s record at 11-3, putting them at No. 3 in the nation.

Unsurprisingly, this makes the Irish a target this weekend.

“Everyone wants to beat us,” Irish head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia said. “[Boston College] wants to show how they’ve improved, North Carolina wants to challenge for honors, and Duke wants to dethrone us on their home floor.”

Irish junior foilist Virgile Collineau lunges at his opponent during the ACC championships on Feb. 28, 2016, at Castellan Family Fencing Center. The Irish look to repeat as ACC champs this year.Emmet Farnan | The Observer

Irish junior foilist Virgile Collineau lunges at his opponent during the ACC championships on Feb. 28, 2016, at Castellan Family Fencing Center. The Irish look to repeat as ACC champs this year.

Despite the team’s success so far this season, Kvaratskhelia said he still worries about his team’s consistency entering the tournament.

“The one thing we’ve battled this year is inconsistency,” Kvaratskhelia said. “One squad would do really well in a certain match, and another would falter, which puts pressure on everyone else to do even better.”

In preparation for the ACCs, Kvaratskhelia has changed practice conditions to more accurately model a competition.

“We’ve shortened our sessions to try and duplicate the intensity of a competition,” Kvaratskhelia said. “Our strength and endurance levels are good; we want to improve speed and flexibility.”

The Irish are also learning from past tournaments in order to move forward with their goals for ACCs.

“We saw a good deal of adversity at the Northwestern meet, especially on the men’s side,” Kvaratskhelia said. “I was worried as to whether they could bounce back after a tough first day, and they did not disappoint me. I think they learned that if everyone contributes to the best of their ability, we can beat anyone.”

Although both teams include notable players poised to make an impact this weekend, Kvaratskhelia singled out senior Lee Kiefer of the women’s team in particular.

“I’m most excited to see Lee Kiefer at her final ACCs,” said Kvaratskhelia. “She is having a season that is incredible even by her standards. On the men’s side, I’m not so much interested in seeing one individual as I am seeing the 12 of them together as a team.”

With all the pressures that come with ACC competition, Kvaratskhelia said he had benchmarks he wanted his team to meet that might not be measured in terms of wins and losses.

“Resiliency … and maintaining consistency [are our goals],” Kvaratskhelia said. “If we do this, we can be well-positioned for regionals in a couple of weeks.”

The ACC championships begin Saturday and continue all day Sunday.

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