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Fencing: Irish travel to Salt Lake City for national spots

Mike Monaco | Thursday, February 16, 2012

With the regular season in the books, the Irish will take a break from collegiate action to participate in the United States Fencing Association’s National Junior Olympics this weekend in Salt Lake City.

The event provides fencers under the age of the 20 with the opportunity to qualify for the Olympic team.

“We are sending just four [freshmen] fencers at this moment,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “We qualify by age so we don’t typically send any juniors. It’s an event for the freshmen and sophomores.”

With fencers from all over the country competing for prestigious national team spots, the Irish are prepared for fierce competition. Bednarski said he is excited to see how the four perform against top talent.

“This is a qualifying event for the world so it’s a very tough tournament,” Bednarski said.

“We will observe the progress of our freshmen and see how well they do.”

The quartet of Irish fencers consists of foilist Gabriel Acuna and epeeists Michael Rossi, Nicole Ameli and Ashley Severson.

Acuna saw action in the final two meets of the season and compiled an 18-6 record, including a 13-4 performance at the Notre Dame Duals on Jan. 29.

Rossi competed in all five meets and posted winning records in four as part of his 36-21 record for the regular season.

Ameli, who posted 39 wins on the season, was one of the top performers on the women’s epee squad.

Rounding out the group is Severson, who finished right behind Ameli in the win column with a 37-7 mark for the campaign. Bednarski said he expects a strong performance from Severson in Utah.

“From this group Severson is probably the most experienced,” Bednarski said. “She has already played in many top competitions against top fencers in the nation. I think she can maybe medal or maybe even reach the final [this weekend]. She probably will qualify for the national team. That’s our goal [for her], to fence in [the World Cadet and Junior Fencing Championships] in Moscow in March and April.”

After the National Junior Olympics are over, the team will return to action as a group Feb. 26 for the Squad Championships in New York. The four freshmen will use the National Junior Olympics as a building block for the rest of the season, Bednarski said.

“We’re competing in [the Squad Championships] next week,” Bednarski said. “We can try to use the [National Junior Olympics] as a promotional event for next week. We will see how [the freshmen] will compete in two weeks.”

The National Junior Olympics begin today at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City.