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FENCING: Providenza sets out to repeat title

Dan Tapetillo | Thursday, January 26, 2006

It’s hard topping an NCAA national championship, but that is exactly what junior sabre Valerie Providenza has set out to accomplish.

Thriving on the momentum of last season, Providenza and the rest of the Irish squad are looking for a repeat of their 2005 national title and continuing Notre Dame’s fencing legacy.

“The motivation to win came toward the end of last year,” Providenza said. “So we will only add to the excitement from last year as we get closer and closer to the championships this year.”

The Irish confidence comes from their ambition for dominance, illustrated no better than by Providenza’s performance in last year’s NCAA championships.

During the first two days of team competition – the men’s portion of the tournament – Providenza came down with food poisoning and needed to be hospitalized. She was not released until an hour and a half before her bout on the third day of the championships, the beginning of the women’s portion of championships. She had barely enough time to warm up.

“I was so exhausted when I got out of the hospital,” Providenza said. “So I was just taking one bout at a time and trying to conserve my energy between each one.”

Despite her illness, Providenza managed a score of 19-4 in the 23 round-robin bouts. This record was enough in the women’s sabre competition to place her near the top of the standings. She competed in the semi-finals, earning a great deal of respect from her teammates.

“It was really encouraging to see her compete that well,” junior sabre Matt Stearns said. “She gained a lot of respect for being such a tough competitor. I think it was also inspiring for all the girls competing at the end.”

Though Providenza finished fourth in the women’s sabre competition, it was a strong enough performance to help Notre Dame overcome a 24-point margin to edge its fiercest competitor, Ohio State, and win its seventh national title with a score of 173-171.

“Going into those final days, we were concerned,” Stearns said. “Even that first day [of the women’s competition] we were in a tough spot because we only made up [11 of the 24 bouts] and knew they had 13 real tough bouts the next [and final] day. But our girls fenced amazing and Ohio State didn’t come through and it came out in our favor.”

With the help of Providenza and the rest of women’s team, the Irish women won a total of 103 bouts – the most wins for a women’s program in a single NCAA championship.

But despite the success found in last year’s team, the Irish are looking to repeat.

“We definitely have a shot at another title this year,” Stearns said. “And it looks like it is going to be another good match-up against Ohio State.”