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Fencing: Notre Dame fights for championship

Conor Kelly | Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Notre Dame dominated the Midwest Fencing championships, as both the men’s and women’s teams earned gold in each weapon category. Now, the Irish look to take home the program’s eighth national championship and its first since 2005 as they head to Columbus, Ohio for the NCAA championships.

Notre Dame qualified the maximum allotment of 12 fencers for the championships at the NCAA regionals in Michigan last week, and will send two fencers per weapon for both the men’s and women’s teams. The team championship will be earned by individual performances, as each fencer earns one point for each win as they move throughout the tournament.

Though one strong individual performance can lift a team, the whole squad must perform well to earn a championship. This year’s group mixes NCAA experience with raw talent. Three of the six men have fenced at the championships before, while four of the six women have competed there as well.

Though qualifying 12 fencers is an advantage, the Irish realize that it by no means guarantees victory.

“We can’t become overconfident in having qualified 12 fencers,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said.” It’s like a basketball game in which one team starts with a two-point lead. It doesn’t mean the other team can’t come back.”

The trip to Ohio State may provide the Irish with a little extra motivation as well. It was the Buckeyes who edged out Notre Dame for the national championship in 2009. This year, only Ohio State, Princeton and Notre Dame qualified the maximum number of 12 fencers, and Bednarski sees them, as well as outsiders like Harvard, as the primary obstacles to a championship.

“There will obviously be a slight advantage for Ohio State,” Bednarski said. “I’m sure there will be a large number of students there. You could say we are going into the lion’s den.”

If the Irish can go into the “lion’s den” and come out with a national title, they will have earned it. The NCAA championships begins on March 23 and lasts until March 27.