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Sports

Irish prepare for postseason action

| Thursday, February 15, 2018

Coming off a cancelled trip to Durham, North Carolina, for the Duke Duals, Notre Dame is beginning its preparations for postseason action ahead of the ACC Championships being held in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Feb. 24 and 25.

The No. 1 women and No. 2 men have had a tremendous season thus far in their attempt to defend their title as reigning national champions with the women sitting at 35-1 on the year while the men are 27-6.

Eddie Griesedieck | The Observer

Irish junior foil Nicole Gorman attacks her opponent during the DeCicco Duals on Jan. 28 at the Castellan Family Fencing Center.

In their last outing at the Northwestern Duals, Notre Dame went a collective 18-2 in competition, snagging wins against some of the nation’s best fencing programs along the way.

Head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia said he has been impressed with his team’s work thus far, but he knows their greatest challenges lie ahead.

“The entire season is getting ready for the last three competitions, those being ACCs, regionals and NCAAs, and so far preparation has been going accordingly,” he said. “According to polls, we are first in women’s and second in men’s, so I think we’re in a pretty good situation. We are sitting on solid ground physically, technically and mentally as a team, so now we just have to make the final steps.”

Before competition gets underway at the ACC Championships, individual team members will first be competing in this upcoming weekend’s USA Fencing Junior Olympics held in Memphis, Tennessee. As a whole, Kvaratskhelia said that preparation has remained the same and those participating will be ready.

“It’s been business as usual with about eight to 10 of our athletes at the Junior Olympics or the World Cup, and we’ve been treating it like a major competition for the weekend,” he said. “They’re ready, with some fighting for a U.S. national team spot on the line, and they are prepared to the fullest to accomplish that. The rest of the team is taking a few days off to regroup and when the others rejoin us, we will continue to prep for ACCs.”

With Notre Dame returning to the postseason as the defending national champions, it is no secret that other programs will have extra incentive to knock the Irish off their throne. But Kvaratskhelia said he is not concerned with this team’s ability to handle the pressure.

“We devoted our season to everyday preparation, and we didn’t discuss as a team being defending national champs or what comes with that,” he said. “We are hungry and humble, and our team is not looking at anyone else to compete against except ourselves in order to prepare in the fullest way. We are just going to fight and we can live with the consequences. I don’t think we have pressure on us as champions, the pressure was before we won. This is just a bonus and if we can win, that’s great. If not, we know we will do our best and we can live with that.”

With his team having put in the preparation and having their expectations set, Kvaratskhelia said he believes all that is left for his team is to go out there and stay focused when postseason competition picks up.

“The key is just being focused. Every touch will matter, so we must be resilient,” he said. “I know a lot will be thrown at us due to us winning all three ACCs since joining the conference, but if we can focus and be poised from beginning to end, we can handle the onslaught. We will be able to succeed because we are prepared and just have to be tough. That’s what wins championships.”

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