The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Irish set to host Midwest tourney

Douglas Farmer | Friday, February 27, 2009

Notre Dame will host the 11th Midwest Conference Championships this weekend at the Joyce Center, featuring both individual and team matches throughout the event. Both the men’s and women’s Irish squads come into the tournament ranked first in the latest USFCA poll.

“I feel very positive for [the team], and I know they will continue to remind the country why Notre Dame’s fencing program is truly world class,” assistant coach Marek Stepien said. “They have been training extremely hard and I’m certain that at the [Midwest Conference] Championships and on into next season you will see some very impressive results.”

The Irish head into this weekend at the top of the college fencing world after a set of remarkable regular seasons in which the men’s team posted a perfect 33-0 mark and the women’s squad finished 32-2. Both win totals are records in a program that has produced two national championships and dozens of All-Americans since the arrival of head coach Janusz Bednarski seven years ago.

Despite being a young and relatively inexperienced group, the Notre Dame fencers have placed themselves in a prime position to compete for a national championship after posting wins over so many ranked teams this spring.

“It’s very hard for coaches to predict [results],” Bednarski said. “I’ve been in this business for so long. There are so many factors we can’t control, especially on such a young team. But anything can happen if we make it to the Bloody Four.”

The Midwest Conference Championships are one of the first steps on that road. Individual play begins Saturday in a pool format, and eliminations are expected to begin by the early afternoon. Sunday features team play throughout the day.

The biggest obstacle for the Irish this weekend is last year’s winner, No. 3 Ohio State. The Buckeyes edged out the Irish by 70 points total to earn the victory. Unlike the Irish, Ohio State returns much of its talent from last year.

Competition will begin at 8 a.m. at the Joyce Center. The tournament marks the final event for Notre Dame before the NCAA Regional Qualifiers in mid-March.