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Fencing: Irish seek to maintain top rankings at Northwestern

Conor Kelly | Friday, February 4, 2011

As the top-ranked team in the country, it goes without saying that expectations for the Irish are sky-high. Coach Janusz Bednarski wouldn’t have it any other way. Both the men’s and women’s fencing teams head into the Northwestern duals this weekend as the best in the land, and both are determined to keep it that way.

“For the men, it will be about solidifying our spot as the best in the country,” Bednarski said. “For the women, it will be to continue our unbeaten streak.”

Both teams have been dominant in the early part of the season and will look to continue their winning ways as they travel to Northwestern on Saturday. The meet will feature, among others, Northwestern, Princeton, Stanford, Temple, North Carolina, Air Force and Temple. It will be a tough contest for an Irish men’s team coping with the loss of star junior Gerek Meinhardt, who will not compete for the remainder of the year due to injury. Meinhardt, who competes in the foil, was an NCAA champion and a U.S. Olympian in 2008. Bednarski, however, is far from worried.

“We certainly have other fencers who can step up,” he said. “It will be good to see some younger fencers get an opportunity.”

The women should also be favored to win, building on a prodigious win streak that has lasted the whole year. Eager to compete for the national championship they missed last year, the women should fare well against some stiff competition. Stanford and Princeton both float near the top of the polls on both the men’s and women’s sides and should be the Irish’s main competition come Saturday,

“They are two very strong teams,” Bednarski said.

With conference championships in just about a month, the Irish are looking to use this weekend as a springboard to a potential championship season. The next few days should help show whether or not that dream can become a reality. The Northwestern duals will take place Saturday and Sunday in Evanston, Ill.