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Fencing: Away trips put on hold to host Dame Duals

Mike Monaco | Thursday, January 26, 2012

Throughout the season, the Irish have racked up their fair share of frequent flyer miles traveling from coast to coast for competitions. Not once, however, have the Irish fenced within the friendly confines of the JACC.

That changes this weekend as Notre Dame hosts 17 schools for the Notre Dame Duals, with the women on the mats Saturday, and the men in action Sunday.

The Irish are excited to be staying home for a change, something they hope will lead to a strong showing, Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said.

“This is a competition on our site so we expect, as we always do at home, to make good results because it’s always easier to get support for our side than for the [opponents’] side,” Bednarski said.

Bednarski hopes that such support will come from the Notre Dame student body.

“These matches can be tough for us,” Bednarski said. “I would like to have the support of our students if they can come before 4:30 on Saturday because that will be our last match against Northwestern and they are usually very strong.”

The Irish will host a number of other local teams in addition to Northwestern, including Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin, which is a rare and exciting occurrence given Notre Dame’s independent status, Bednarski said.

“There’s a long list of teams who are coming to compete here, and they’re all pretty strong teams who will try to get as many points as they will be able to take from us,” Bednarski said. “We don’t have many opportunities to fence against [local schools] — maybe once a year — because as an independent we are traveling everywhere. Luckily, we can fence against some Midwest teams [this weekend].”

Despite the stiff competition, Bednarski anticipates a strong performance from the Irish. Underclassmen have been counted on throughout the season, with many of the top fencers taking the year off to prepare for the Olympics.

According to Bednarski, this weekend will be no different.

“It will not be an easy competition,” Bednarski said. “We will be trying to look for new leaders for our team in a situation when four or five athletes took a year off to train for the Olympics. The younger order of kids are stepping up and getting experience. They are trying to lead us. It’s a great chance for us to look for a new social structure in the team and it’s going pretty well so far.”

This weekend also affords the Irish fencers the opportunity to improve their personal standing, with the hope of qualifying for the NCAA championships in March. That being said, Bednarski knows the importance of the competition for the team as well as the individuals involved.

“Each bout is important for individual fencers as well as the team, but individually they can qualify for the individual competition,” Bednarski said. “There will be very tough matches for everyone because those who fence against us are in the same situation.”

From a team and individual standpoint, the Irish are planning on regaining the form that led them to last year’s NCAA title.

“I don’t think we’ll have trouble in this competition,” Bednarski said. “I expect our fencers to fence strongly and I expect to win on both sides, men’s and women’s.”

The Irish women get underway Saturday in the JACC, while the men take to the mats Sunday.