Irish capture sixth at NCAA championships
Alex Carson | Tuesday, March 25, 2014
After competing from Thursday through Sunday at the 2014 NCAA National Championships in Columbus, Ohio, the Irish wound up in sixth place as a team, while sophomore Lee Kiefer and graduate student Gerek Meinhardt each captured individual national titles in the foil.Ten Notre Dame fencers qualified for the competition, five each on the men’s and women’s side. Kiefer and junior foilist Madison Zeiss posted identical 19-4 records in the opening rounds and entered the semifinals as the first and second seeds, respectively.
Kiefer advanced with a 15-12 victory against Ohio State freshman Alanna Goldie. Meanwhile, Zeiss gained a measure of revenge against her 2013 semifinal opponent, sophomore Jackie Dubrovich from Columbia, and bested her by a score of 6-4 in a highly defensive bout.
Zeiss and Kiefer competed fiercely in the championship bout, going back and forth until the score was 10-9 in Kiefer’s favor. As the clock wound down, Kiefer got three more touches to win 13-10 and take home the NCAA women’s foil title for the second consecutive year, this time with her teammate Zeiss next to her on the podium.
Juniors Nicole Ameli and Ashley Severson represented Notre Dame in women’s epee, with each turning in an up-and-down competition. Ameli would finish in eighth with a 13-10 record, while Severson followed closely in 10th.
In sabre, sophomore Johanna Thill posted a strong opening round, beating five of her first six opponents. She lost some steam as the tournament continued, however, winding up in 15th place with a 10-13 record.
The men’s competition began Saturday morning, with foilists Meinhardt and freshman Kristjan Archer leading the charge for the Irish. Meinhardt, the second-ranked foilist in the world, was a nearly perfect 14-1 on Saturday and continued his success on Sunday. He topped Penn State sophomore Nobuo Brav 15-11 in the semifinal, but fell behind 9-5 early in the championship match against Brav’s teammate, senior David Willette. Finding a spark, however, he came back to tie the score at 12-12. Meinhardt got the final three touches to win 15-12, adding a second NCAA title to his list of accolades. Archer finished in 10th place at 13-10.
Sophomore epeeist Garrett McGrath went just 8-7 in the first day of competition, but he bounced back and won his first five Sunday bouts, landing himself in the semifinal match, which he won 13-9 in a well-fought contest. Despite putting up another strong showing in the final, McGrath was unable to hang on to an early lead against St. John’s freshman Yevgeniy Karyuchenko. He lost 15-13 and finished in second place.
Sophomore John Hallsten and senior Kevin Hassett, the competitors in men’s sabre, were unable to find their rhythm, finishing 13th and 18th respectively in the tournament.
When the team scores were totaled, the Irish fell into sixth place with 138 points, 72 from the women and 66 from the men. They were eight points behind fifth-place Harvard and well behind the victorious Penn State, which finished with 180 points.