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ND Fencing: Team finishes second in conference

Michael Blasco | Monday, March 2, 2009

Notre Dame earned individual titles in the men’s epee, women’s sabre and women’s epee, but finished second overall in the 11th Midwest Fencing Conference.

The No. 1 Irish teams took first in two events but lost to No. 3 Ohio State overall.

In Saturday’s individual competitions, senior captain and All-American Karol Kostka earned his second consecutive MFC Championship in epee. Kostka trailed Ohio State’s Igor Tolkachev 14-12 in the championship bout, but quickly rattled off three touches to clinch the title. Irish head coach Janusz Bednarski credits Kostka’s superior endurance for his ability to win long bouts.

“Kostka was one of the best junior fencers in all of Europe four years ago and has not completely showcased his skill yet in NCAA play, partly because [most] bouts are only to five touches,” Bednarski said. “With his style, he prefers to fight much longer to show his dominance.”

Sophomore captain and All-American sabre Sarah Borrmann earned the Irish’s first women’s title of the weekend with her 15-8 victory over Buckeye Margarita Tschomakova. After taking home an NCAA individual title in her freshman year, Borrmann is looking to claim a second national championship with her blend of graceful athleticism and astute strategy.

“[Borrmann] is an intelligent and emotional fighter on the strip,” Bednarski said. “With her talent to read opponents’ strategy and the ability to perform in stressful situations, she will surely be a candidate for an NCAA title again this year.”

Capping Notre Dame’s run of individual titles, freshman epee Courtney Hurley defeated Joanna Niklinska 15-8 to become the third consecutive freshman Irish fencer to take home the women’s epee title at the MFC. Hurley’s older sister, All-American and defending NCAA Champion Kelley Hurley, earned the title in 2007 while sophomore All-American Ewa Nelip claimed the honor last year.

“[Courtney Hurley] is going to show the entire world that she does not want to be overshadowed by her talented sister,” Bednarski said. “She is a fencer with tremendous reaction time and she is skilled in preparing a strategy to win against her next opponent.”

While Saturday featured individual play in all formats, Sunday saw the men’s and women’s team championships. Both Irish squads came into the weekend ranked No. 1 in the nation and sought to avenge last winter’s narrow loss to Ohio State. However, the No. 3 Buckeyes took home the team title, winning four events to Notre Dame’s two.

The Irish men dropped title bouts to Ohio State in the epee and foil classes 5-3 and 5-2, respectively, before rallying to dismantle the Buckeyes in a 5-1 sabre victory.

While the women’s epee team opened with a 5-2 victory to draw the series to 2-2 overall, Ohio State responded quickly with a 5-2 victory in women’s foil. The Notre Dame women’s sabre team, a strength of the Irish, gave it their all, but lost a close 5-4 decision to clinch the victory for the Buckeyes.

Notre Dame returns to the strip on Friday at the NCAA Midwest Regional Qualifiers at Ohio State’s gym in Columbus.