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Fencing team spears national championship

Retter, Eric | Monday, March 21, 2005

HOUSTON – Going into the biggest tournament of the season, sophomore sabre Valerie Providenza got sick.”On Thursday I got really sick and had to go to the hospital. I had food poisoning and a virus infection,” Providenza said. “It’s definitely taken my game back a couple of notches.” Despite that claim, Providenza performed extremely well at this year’s NCAA fencing championships, going 19-4 in the round robin – including a 9-0 tear on Sunday that helped the Irish turn what was a 24-point deficit Saturday morning into a 2-point victory by Sunday afternoon – as they edged rival Ohio State 173-171 atop the team standing. Behind them, perennial contenders St. John’s and Penn State finished with respective scores of 162 and 145. Providenza was among six Notre Dame fencers, two men and four women, to place in the top four of the round robin and advance to the medal rounds. Providenza joined senior foilist Alicja Kryczalo, sophomore epeeist Amy Orlando and freshman sabre Mariel Zagunis as the women’s representatives, while senior epeeist Michal Sobieraj and sophomore sabre Patrick Ghattas advanced from the men’s team. However, the Irish met with some struggles in the championships, as only Sobieraj emerged as an individual champion, defeating Wayne State’s Marek Petraszek 15-13 in the finals to cap his career with a title. Providenza finished fourth, falling in the semifinals to eventual champion Emily Jacobsen of Columbia by a score of 15-13 before losing the bronze medal bout to Siobhan Byrne of Ohio State 15-11. Zagunis, who beat Byrne 15-5 in the semifinals, lost to Olympic teammate Jacobsen by the margin of 15-11.Ghattas advanced as a four seed, then upset top seed Franz Boghicev of Penn State 15-10 before losing to St. John’s Serjay Isayenko 15-12.”I know that Patrick made big progress this year,” head coach Janusz Bednarski said. “He was competing very well so it was not a surprise for me [that he made the finals].”Orlando, who had gone from 11th place in the round robin after Saturday to fourth place by the end of Sunday, beat Holly Buechel of Penn 15-5 before losing to Anna Garina of Wayne State 15-6.The largest upset of the event came as Kryczalo, the three-time defending champion, attempted to join only 29 other athletes in NCAA history as winners of the same event four years in a row. After triumphing over Erszebet Garay of St. John’s 15-8, Harvard freshman Emily Cross defeated Kryczalo 15-5 in the finals.Along with the medalists, freshman foil Jakub Jedrkowiak (7th), senior sabre Andrea Ament (7th) and sophomore sabre Matt Stearns (10th) were All-Americans at the event, giving Notre Dame 9 total.Despite the individual accolades and troubles, the defining moments of the tournament came when Ohio State’s Metta Thompson lost to St. John’s Katia Larchanka immediately after Kryczalo had claimed victory over Columbia’s Cassidy Luitjen, giving Notre Dame its seventh national championship and securing the team as the sole champion.”If we win first, we win first, we shouldn’t tie it,” Providenza said. “We have done that great in a long time, so it was amazing.”This is the second national championship for Notre Dame this year. The women’s soccer team won Dec. 5 with a 4-3 penalty kick decision against UCLA.