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Fencing: Irish send 12 to Tournament

Luke Mansour | Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sporting a 68-0 combined record and being recently crowned Midwest Regional champions, Notre Dame has met every test it has faced this year.

Starting today in Boston, the Irish will attempt to complete their season with an NCAA team championship.

“We are prepared pretty well,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “Every one of our rivals this year is tough, let’s pray that we don’t have injuries and we are in shape.”

Notre Dame qualified the maximum of 12 fencers for the national tournament, many of which boast experience on the junior championship and, for some, even the Olympic level.

“Among the 12, we for sure have some top guns,” Bednarski said. “Kelley Hurley and Gerek Meinhardt were former Olympians from Beijing and Sarah Borrmann was our [2008] NCAA sabre champion.”

Another fencer who seems primed for success at the national tournament is sophomore Courtney Hurley, who took gold at the Junior World Cup in January. 

“There are a couple of others who are close to them in aspiration, maybe not experience yet but strength,” Bednarski said. “The competition is a team format, so it will be very important. They all have to play well.”

Bednarski said he was disappointed by the format of NCAA Tournament. He said the limit of 12 players does not allow the Irish to showcase the depth that led them to the No. 1 ranking this season.

“We are not happy about this format. We’d like to take more kids and show off our depth,” Bednarski said. “During the season we showed we are top in the nation but now we must go into the different format, which leads to a more unpredictable result.”

Despite all the Irish have accomplished this season, in addition to the extensive experience of many Irish fencers, the NCAA Tournament brings a different type of pressure.

“[The tournament] is not individual in nature, you are fencing for a whole university, which builds excess pressure,” Bednarski said.

Despite having a target on their backs heading into the tournament as the No. 1 team in the nation, Bednarski said he is confident his team is prepared for the biggest stage.

“This group is extremely ambitious,” Bednarski said. “I would say as a group this is one of the strongest I’ve coached in my 15 years here.”

One of those groups included the 2005 team, which made history when it won the University’s third national championship in fencing since the combined national championships began in 1990. This year’s Irish will hope to make some history of their own when they begin NCAA Tournament play today at Harvard University.