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Idle Irish practice during three-week break

Matt Mooney | Thursday, February 12, 2004

After spending the last three dual meets battling top-ranked foes like Ohio State and Penn State, the Notre Dame fencing team is in the midst of a well-deserved three-week rest. Both the men and women knocked off the second-ranked Buckeyes at the Notre Dame Duals on Jan. 31, but neither team will compete until the West vs. Central Dual Meet on Feb. 21.For fifth-year foilist Forest Walton, the break is a welcome one. “We were traveling so much that we were just getting ahead of ourselves, and maybe that’s why we lost to St. John’s,” he said. “We’ve been training and everyone’s well-rested now. We’re back on the top of our game.”The West vs. Central Duals will be held in West Lafayette, Ind., but the competition should pose little challenge for a team with only one combined loss between both the men and women. The duals may allow the walk-on fencers to see actual competition. “All of these are teams we need to beat,” senior epeeist Kerry Walton said. “[But] if we can get all our walk-ons in so everybody on the team [gets] monograms, that’s what we’re going to try and do.”Additionally, in the last dual meet of the regular season, the Irish hope to use the experience to keep the rust away in preparation for their postseason run.”Our team is smart enough to know they get this [tournament] to practice a lot of things,” Kerry Walton said. “They’re not going to slack because their recruits haven’t been fencing as long as us.”The Midwest Fencing Conference Championships, which begin March 6, mark the first of the postseason tests the Irish will face. The event will be held in South Bend at the Joyce Center, giving the Irish home-floor advantage. Forest Walton and the rest of the Irish already have their sights focused on playoff preparation.”The coaches are really pushing us hard and that’s what we all need,” Forest Walton said. “That’s what is going to give us an NCAA title this year. That’s what’s going to allow us to repeat.”For the next week and a half, however, the fencers are stuck facing their own teammates in practice. While competing against the same people repeatedly can become monotonous, the Irish do have an advantage. Those same people are among the best in the country.”Every day people can try new stuff, and just fencing each other makes you ready for the competition we’re going to face,” Forest Walton said.The non-scholarship fencers contribute as well. They provide the challenge of unfamiliar fencing styles to the more experienced fencers like Kerry Walton.”Walk-ons are awesome because you’ve never fenced these people before and it’s something new,” Kerry Walton said.But the coaches are also working hard to keep practices lively to avoid repetition of the same routines.”We played a little game of ultimate Frisbee for 20 minutes during practice,” Kerry Walton said. “[The coaches] throw in different things and they keep us entertained.”Even though he does try to mix up his practices, Irish coach Janusz Bednarski remains focused on the task at hand – improvement.”We will try to improve what mistakes we made,” Bednarski said. “In our victories, it was not easy to win. Our team is very young, so for them, work is a must.”Additionally, the break gives the injured fencers a chance to rest.