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Fencing: Fencers will compete individually

Joe Meixell | Friday, November 21, 2003

The defending champs aren’t sitting on last year’s national crown. The Notre Dame fencing squads hope to build on their successful start last weekend as they clash against national powers Ohio State and Penn State Saturday and Sunday. But for senior Kerry Walton, the big names are just business as usual. “There’s always a little bit [of pressure] but it’s been so close the last couple of years that it’s always been between us and Penn State,” she said. “It’s an individual sport and people are always used to other people gunning for them.”However, the teams will not be competing en masse. The men will split squads on Saturday, sending some fencers south to compete individually in the Ohio State Open. The rest will head east to Penn State also for individual competition in the Max Garret Open.The women will also be divided. Part of the team will remain here in South Bend to take part in Sunday’s Notre Dame Turkey Shoot. In the meantime, the other women fencers will follow the men to match up against Penn State on Sunday. Both women’s events are individual competition.Despite their division, the Irish fencers will face stiff competition at all locations. Penn State finished a very close second to Notre Dame at the national championships last season, and always maintains a perennially powerful program. In Columbus, the men’s squad will face the fencers who last year ousted them in the conference semifinals. They prevented Notre Dame from attaining its 19th consecutive combined conference championship. “Ohio State is growing as our big rival,” coach Janusz Bednarski said. “[As the defending champs,] all fencers want to beat us. It’s tough from the beginning.”The stiffness of the competition will be a baptism by fire for both teams. Having suffered heavy losses on the men’s and women’s sides due to graduation (five total All-Americans), Coach Janusz Bednarski will look to his young duelists to pick up the slack. “We still have a good team but it’s hard to predict because we have a lot of freshmen. Freshmen are an unknown position until you see them in action.”Youth was served last weekend at Northwestern as the new fencers combined for only one loss. Freshmen sabers Patrick Ghattas and Matthew Stearns were a combined 15-0 while epeeist Aaron Adjemian won all six of his bouts. Fellow freshman foilist Frankie Bonatempo finished 8-0. On the women’s side, Valerie Providenza and Angela Vincent added a combined 15-1 record to give the rookies an impressive 44-1 weekend mark. “I’m not worried about anyone,” Walton said. “They know what they’re doing they really don’t need anyone to back them up.”But the leftovers from last year haven’t exactly gone stale. Leading the young freshmen are six returning All-Americans, including individual national foil champ Alicja Kryczalo and national epee runner up Michal Sobieraj.Even though it’s early in the season, Bednarski looks for these tournaments to provide invaluable experience to be used later in the season. “It will be good to check out what we have to be improved and what can be done,” he said. “It will be good training for next year’s championships.”