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FENCING: Irish shine at Duke Duals

Eric Retter | Monday, February 14, 2005

As the regular season comes to a close, the Irish are in a strong position for both postseason competition and in their own history books.The Notre Dame men’s and women’s squads, ranked No. 4 and No. 2 respectively, both concluded their regular seasons with 4-0 records at the Duke Duals over the weekend. Coach Janusz Bednarski was pleased in the performances of his teams.”We did pretty well in the competition,” he said. “My feeling is that we had a good tournament.”After defeating Johns Hopkins 20-7 and Duke, North Carolina and Air Force all by a score of 21-6, the Irish men are in good shape heading into the postseason, finishing with a regular season record of 21-3. The men were led by three-time All-American senior epeeist Michal Soberiaj and freshman Greg Howard, who went 10-2 and 11-1, respectively. Soberiaj finished the season with a record of 65-4, the third most wins ever by a men’s fencer and the most by an epeeist. His career .936 winning percentage is also tops for an epeeist, and his 176-12 career record is second among epeeists and seventh in all weapons.Despite their accomplishments, Bednarski anticipates Soberiaj and other decorated senior fencers are still hungry.”I hope they will go on to medals [at the NCAA Championships] and did not finish the season already,” he said.While the men’s epee unit led all weapons with a 29-7 record, the foils and sabres also competed well, compiling respective records of 28-8 and 26-10. Freshman Jakub Jedrkowiak led the foilists with a perfect 12-0 record, while sophomore All-American Patrick Ghattas matched his record to head the sabre attack.Throughout the season, the Irish dominated opponents in all three weapons. Behind Soberiaj, the epeeists were a perfect 24-0, while the sabres went 20-4 and the foilists ended the season at 17-7. The Notre Dame women were equally successful in Durham, defeating North Carolina 21-6 and Johns Hopkins 26-1, while triumphing over Duke and Air Force by scores of 16-11 and 22-5 respectively. These scores were especially impressive considering the Irish were without three of their top fencers, as All-American sophomore epeeist Amy Orlando, freshman sabre Mariel Zagunis missed the event to compete in an international qualifying event and senior foilist and three-time champion Alicja Kryczalo also did not compete.In fact, in an effort to begin preparing for next season, Bednarski allowed many backups to see action this weekend.”My thinking was a little risky. I didn’t want to lose the position of the team, which is strong, but I wanted to give kids a chance to think that they can replace [our seniors],” he said.Three time All-American senior foilist Andrea Ament and fifth-year epeeist Kerry Walton both went undefeated at Duke, adding 12 wins to their already impressive totals. Sophomore sabre and 2004 NCAA champion Valerie Providenza and freshman foilist Melanie Bautista both followed closely at 11-1. Walton’s record of 175-28 is fourth all-time among women’s epeeists and 11th in all weapons for most career wins, and Kryczalo’s .931 winning percentage is 3rd highest all-time in Notre Dame women’s fencing. On the season, the foilists were an undefeated 24-0, while both the sabres and epeeists amassed 20-4 records.With all that the Irish have behind them, Bednarski notes that the most important part of the season is still ahead.”We have strong opponents, some very good, high class fencers coming up [at the NCAAs],” he said. “It will not be easy.”