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Fencing: Team faces reigning NCAA champs

Chris Masoud | Thursday, March 5, 2009

The NCAA Midwest regional will be the make-or-break event for the Notre Dame fencing teams this weekend as they head into the final qualifying event before the NCAA championships.

The only thing standing between the Irish and a full qualifying squad is reigning national champion Ohio State, who will be hosting the regional in Columbus, Ohio.

“The problem is the difference between us and them is so low that one day victory will be for them and another it will be for us,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “It was this way the whole year; our victories were minimal and their victories were minimal.”

Bednarski believes the outcome will once again be very close this weekend, but he said the team that exhibits the best form and the best technique on the strip will finish the regional on top.

Both the Irish male and female squads will send full teams to the event after qualifying the maximum number of fighters. According to NCAA regulations, the Irish can send twelve men and twelve women as a result of the fencers’ highly successful individual and team seasons.

But the Buckeyes will also likely be sending full squads in both the men’s and women’s individual competitions. The best twenty-four fighters from both universities will advance to represent the Midwest region in the championships in Pennsylvania.

“We will have to qualify the full team to the final if we want to be in the top four in the future,” Bednarski said. “That is the main goal.”

The Irish have a golden opportunity to exact revenge on their regional rival following last weekend’s second-place finish at the hands of the Buckeyes. More importantly, the fencers need a convincing win in Columbus to ensure the highest possible chance of success in the finals in late March.

As they have done all season, the fencing teams will look to their cast of talented yet inexperienced underclassmen to carry them to the finals.

“Our kids are doing very well in their relation to stress and tension during the matches, when one touch decides history,” Bednarski said. “I believe we can get our rivals one day and win a big event, but they have to grow. They have to learn and get more experience in how to behave in the stressful moments in our sport.”