Notre Dame hosts Midwest Championships
Andrew Robinson | Thursday, February 27, 2014
Heading into the final few competitions of the season, Notre Dame will gear up to host and compete in the 21-team Midwest Fencing Conference Championships this Saturday and Sunday at the Castellan Family Fencing Center.
The Irish won the men’s, women’s and overall titles when they hosted the event last year, claiming four of six possible gold medals in men’s foil and sabre and women’s foil and epee. They added two silvers in men’s epee and women’s sabre, finishing with 1,590 total points to edge Ohio State by 30 points.
The Buckeyes are currently ranked second in NCAA standings on the women’s side and fourth on the men’s side, and they look to be major challengers again for the fourth-ranked Irish women and the third-ranked men.
“Ohio State will be a very dangerous opponent for us,” Irish head coach Janusz Bednarski said. “The result … will likely come down to the end of the competition.”
The men narrowly defeated Ohio State 14-13 in the NYU Invitational earlier this year and 16-11 in the St. John’s Invitational, while the women fell 16-11 and 14-3 in those respective tournaments.
The Championships will feature 21 total teams, including Northwestern, Michigan and Indiana. Bednarski is confident in Notre Dame’s chances of defending the conference title but also stresses that the team must stay focused and levelheaded.
“We are a pretty strong team, and winning a lot of medals [in the 2013 Midwest Conference Championships] means we were good, but that’s last year,” he said. “This year, we have a different team and different team members. There are teams that can beat us … if we are not prepared well.”
Bednarski said he expects the Irish performance to be led by recurring standouts like senior foilist Ariel DeSmet, graduate student Gerek Meinhardt, who is the world’s top-ranked foilist, and by sophomore Lee Kiefer and junior Madison Zeiss on the women’s foil squad. After the first three team tournaments, the four combined for a 71-21 record to help their teams to several victories. Meinhardt was 19-3, while Kiefer had a similarly impressive 16-2 mark.
Bednarski also stressed that it will be important for the younger fencers to perform well this weekend, citing sophomore epeeists Garrett McGrath and Catherine Lee among several others as young fencers who have been progressing and performing consistently well.
The conference tournament will also set the tone and act as a gauge for the upcoming NCAA Midwest Regionals and NCAA Championships, according to Bednarski.
“We are approaching the end of the season, so every event is important,” he said. “Winning the competition always gives optimism.”
“It will be interesting how we set the mood, especially against Northwestern and Ohio [State]. We will look to see what we need to do for final preparation for the NCAA Championships.”
The Championships will begin Saturday morning and continue throughout Saturday and Sunday at the Castellan Family Fencing Center.
Contact Andrew Robinson at [email protected]