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Fencing: Irish look to repeat undefeated weekend

Conor Kelly | Thursday, February 2, 2012

Last weekend, Northwestern’s women’s team came into the Joyce Center and posted an 8-1 record in action on Notre Dame’s home strip. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the Irish women posted an undefeated 12-0 mark and were matched by the men’s squad in a perfect weekend for Notre Dame.

This weekend, Northwestern will get its own chance to play host as the Wildcats will host the Northwestern Duals Saturday and Sunday.

In a season that has been tumultuous in the early going, the duals will be a chance for the Irish to show they can compete with the top teams in the country, and an opportunity to build off a strong performance at home last weekend.

“This competition which is coming will certainly have another portion of the best teams in the nation,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “There are many teams who we haven’t fenced yet, who are still able to beat us.”

Not least among these opponents is Princeton, a team Bednarski said will be among the tops in the field.

“Princeton has made a big push in recruiting many of the top fencers in the country recently, and it has a growing program,” Bednarski said. “On both the sides, men’s and women’s, the danger is coming from several teams, including Princeton.”

For the Irish women (18-5), the Tigers will present a challenge to young Irish fencers Channing Foster and Nicole Ameli, a pair of freshmen who led the Irish epee unit with a combined record of 35-4 at home last weekend. The standout performance by the two will have to be repeated this weekend.

“They will be put to a very strong test because Princeton’s epee fencers are their best,” Bednarski said. “I believe they will learn how to fence against the best in the nation.”

Further competition on the women’s side is expected from Temple, and on both sides from Duke and North Carolina. Featuring former Olympic medalist Rebecca Ward, the Blue Devils figure to test the Irish’s strength.

“It will be very interesting to see how all of these teams fence against us and how we will fence against them,” Bednarski said. “I expect a very serious clash between these teams.”

The Irish sabreurs paced the men’s team (23-5) in last weekend’s Notre Dame Duals. The group combined to post a 100-8 mark over the two days of competition, including a number of strong performances from underclassmen.

Though both squads got off to mediocre starts that were uncharacteristic of Notre Dame in recent years, the path toward defending the 2011 National championship was smoothed with an impressive showing at home last weekend. It remains to be seen whether the performance can be duplicated in a series that will reveal a lot about the potential of the Irish squads.

“I hope that after this competition we are seen as a strong team — if not the favorites,” Bednarski said.

The Irish take to the strip Saturday at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.