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Irish will send 11 to championships

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Much as it did two seasons ago en route to a national championship, Notre Dame qualified 11 of the maximum 12 fencers to the NCAA Championships, which begin Thursday in Madison, N.J.

The Irish captured two individual titles at the Midwest Regional March 10, with nine additional fencers finishing well enough to qualify for the four-day competition at Drew University.

Sophomore foilist Adi Nott and freshman epeeist Kelley Hurley continued their dominance of their respective weapons, cruising to crowns.

Hurley beat Ohio State’s Leslie Lampman 15-5 in the final, while Nott took an individual crown for the second straight week with an 8-6 win over Northwestern’s Samantha Nemecek.

Nott credited first-year Irish assistant coach Gia Kvaratskhelia with much of her improvement.

“Since Gia got here, he’s really helped a lot with my footwork,” she said. “He always makes your legs feel strong the whole [bout].”

Nott will be joined in New Jersey by fellow foilist sophomore Emilie Prot. After an early-season appendectomy, Prot entered the Midwest Regional as the 3-seed but lost in the quarterfinals. In the bracket for fifth place, she won the first bout before storming back from a 10-7 deficit to beat Ohio State’s Holly McKibben 15-12.

“This season was really tough because … I had my surgery,” she said. “[This was] my year to qualify. I had some good bouts, but others were not so nice.”

Irish senior Valerie Providenza finished third in the women’s sabre, qualifying her for a spot in New Jersey. Sophomore Ashley Serrette finished sixth but earned a berth to the NCAAs, as Ohio State had three sabreists in the top five.

On the men’s side, Irish sophomore Bill Thanhouser took second in the men’s sabre, followed by his teammate, senior Patrick Ghattas, in third. Irish senior Matt Stearns beat fellow senior Ryan Bradley for fifth place, but the two-person limit per team per weapon eliminated Stearns from the national competition.

“We have a really tight team,” Thanhouser said. “It really is just luck of the draw what happens.”

In men’s epee, Notre Dame qualified sophomore Karol Kostka and junior Greg Howard, who finished third and fourth, respectively.

Irish junior Jakub Jedrkowiak, who finished second, and sophomore Mark Kubik, who finished fourth, both qualified in men’s foil.

Ohio State also qualified 11, while Columbia, Penn State and St. John’s qualified 12 fencers at other regional events.