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Fencers pointing to national meet

Eric Retter | Friday, February 25, 2005

Consider this weekend’s event a transition tournament. Notre Dame, who is No. 2 in the women’s poll and No. 4 in the men’s, will play host to the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships. The tournament, though a postseason event, has no relevance to the NCAA finals or regionals, the latter of which are next weekend.

“It’s our first tryout for NCAAs, but the Conference [tournament] is not the place to qualify,” head coach Janusz Bednarski said.

With that in mind, the Irish are still approaching the event with the same goal as always – winning.

“It’s a prestigious event, and we want to be champion,” Bednarski said.

The Irish men will be led by senior epeeist Michal Sobieraj, who is still hunting for his first NCAA title. Sobieraj currently owns the men’s single season record for wins, with 65 this year.

“He’s one of the most talented fencers on our team,” Bednarski said.

The women will be led by their two defending NCAA champions, sophomore sabre Valerie Providenza and defending three-time foil champion Alicja Kryczalo. Freshman Mariel Zagunis, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist, has also had a strong season and looks to continue that success this weekend.

The tournament marks Notre Dame’s return to action after a two week layoff. In that time, the team has spent practice time focusing on fundamentals and technique.

“We have returned to practice to improve tactical elements that they lost during the bouting season,” Bednarski said.

Bednarski was happy that his team got some time to prepare itself for the final push for a championship that begins in part this weekend.

“The two weeks were very helpful for us,” he said, “they gave us practice before regionals.”

Before the off stretch, the Irish had competed for four consecutive weekends in dual meets where they saw at least one top-10 team, including No. 1 Ohio State in consecutive weekends. Perhaps the most important part of this weekend’s event is that they will once again face Ohio State before the NCAA tournament begins.

“We have the opportunity to fence against the strongest team in our region before regionals,” Bednarski said. “It’s the end of the season, and we need to check how we stand on both sides [men’s and women’s].”