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Fencing: Irish finish second at Midwest Conference

Ken Fowler | Monday, March 5, 2007

Notre Dame played bridesmaid once again.A year after finishing second in all six disciplines at the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships, the host Irish were runners up once again Saturday at the 2007 edition of the event.Defending champion Ohio State took first place, while the Irish finished a close second.Notre Dame’s top team finish was a win in the women’s epee with a 5-3 victory over the Buckeyes in the final.The Irish finished third in men’s epee, second in men’s foil and men’s sabre and third in women’s sabre, women’s foil and men’s epee. Notre Dame fenced without senior sabreist Patrick Ghattas, who was competing in Bulgaria on the international circuit.Junior Ryan Bradley, who primarily took Ghattas’ spot in the lineup, said he was glad to get in, even if he wished he had fenced better to push the Irish to a higher finish.”Obviously with Patrick gone, it was a good experience for me to fence against some good competition,” he said. “I really enjoyed it.”Other than the win in women’s epee, Notre Dame’s best performance might have been in the women’s sabre competition, where the Irish fell to eventual champions Ohio State 5-4 in the semifinals. The Buckeyes went on to capture the title in that event and three others.Notre Dame’s victory in women’s epee final and Northwestern’s win in women’s foil championship were the only blemishes on Ohio State’s otherwise perfect record.In Saturday’s individual competition, the Irish took three of six titles.Sophomore Adrienne Nott dominated the competition in women’s foil, surrendering only 18 touches in her final three 15-touch bouts. After topping Ohio State’s Holly McKibben 15-2 in the quarterfinals and Northwestern’s Jessica Florendo 15-10 in the semifinals, Nott thrashed the Wildcats’ Samantha Nemecek 15-6 for the crown.On the men’s side, junior foilist Jakub Jedrkowiak battled his way to the final, where he topped Ohio State’s Joe Streb, 15-4, for the title. Irish freshman epeeist Kelley Hurley also continued her winning ways, easily capturing the crown in her discipline. Hurley defeated Ohio State’s Alexandra Obrazcova 15-11 in the title bout after earning 15-11 wins in both the semifinals and quarterfinals.Men’s epeeist Karol Kostka, foilist Mark Kubik and sabreist Matt Stearns also turned in top performances, reaching the semifinals. But the gutsiest performance of the weekend for Notre Dame might have been Valerie Providenza’s silver medal showing. The senior battled bronchitis throughout the week and emerged from pool play as the sixth seed in women’s sabre. She fought to reach the semifinals, where she fenced Ohio State junior Eileen Grench in one of the day’s most competitive bouts.Grench took a quick 4-1 lead, but Providenza rattled off three touches in a row. Deadlocked four touches later at 6-6, Providenza landed three attacks in a row before Grench went on a 7-2 run for a 13-11 lead. Providenza then responded with four touches in a row to secure the victory.While Providenza’s semifinal was marked by dramatic momentum shifts, the final started out with a tit-for-tat. Providenza and Ohio State All-American Siobhan Byrne alternated touches for the first 13 scores of the match. With Providenza clinging to a 7-6 lead, Byrne went on a 6-1 run to take a 12-8 advantage. Providenza responded with five touches of her own, but after she took a 13-12 lead, her calf began to cramp and she walked with a noticeable limp to the on-guard position. With Providenza exhausted, Byrne collected the final three touches for the win.”Given that I didn’t feel well, I’m happy I got second,” said Providenza, who has been using an inhaler for her bronchitis. “I was a lot more tired in my bout with Eileen. I just tried to throw all I could at the final.”

Note:uJedrkowiak beat Ohio State’s William Jeter 15-13 in the semifinal. Jeter, whose emotional outbursts earned him warnings at January’s Notre Dame Duals, nearly received a black card – an ejection from the competition – for grabbing the mask of Cleveland State’s Liran Gross during Jeter’s 10-9 victory over Gross in the quarterfinal.