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Fencing: New No. 1 to host competition

Chris Masoud | Friday, February 6, 2009

For the first time this season, the Irish fencers will have a taste of what it means to be No. 1.

The top-ranked men (17-0) and No. 2 women (17-2) will host the Notre Dame Duals this weekend looking to continue their hot starts against some of the nation’s top teams. The Irish are coming off an unprecedented performance at the Northwestern Duals last weekend, where both the men’s and women’s teams knocked off top-ranked Penn State.

“Teams are coming after fall work, and they are showing their cards,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “I told the fencers keep attention. We are in the middle of the race and just because we have a lead doesn’t mean we are sure winners. They will attack us for sure.”

This weekend’s 14-team field will include No. 7 Stanford and the men’s competitors from No. 3 Ohio State.

“We have to keep focus. Everyone is telling us ‘Oh, you beat the No.1 team, you beat the No. 2 team,’ but that was just a preseason coaches’ poll,” Bednarski said. “Who knows how strong Stanford is? Now on the strip we will see who is really stronger.”

But the biggest surprise of the season may be the rapid adjustment of the talented cast of freshmen and sophomore fighters to the collegiate level.

“They are adjusting very quickly to the different type of competition, the different type of bouts because definitely it’s a different system,” Bednarski said. “Sometimes there are surprises from the intensity of the bouts, intensity between schools, and intensity of engagement. But I believe we will also be successful on this field.”

The duals will take place in the Joyce Center beginning at 8 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday, with closing rounds starting at 5 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.