Season Recap: Irish collect two NCAA titles
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, May 16, 2014
After falling just short of an NCAA championship last year, finishing as runner-up to Princeton, the Irish ended their 2014 season with two national champions and a sixth-place finish at the NCAA championships.
Notre Dame started the year with dominating performances at NYU and St. John’s at the two-day New York Duals on Jan. 25-26. At NYU, the Irish won nine of 12 matches, and the next day at St. John’s, the men captured second, while the women took third.The Irish then travelled to Evanston, Ill., to take on some of the top schools in the country at the Northwestern Duals on Feb. 1. There, the men went 5-2, even without top senior foilist Gerek Meinhardt. The women posted a 4-3 team record behind strong perfomrances in epee and foil.
The foil squad, consisting of sophomores Nicole McKee and Sarah Followill and senior Adriana Camacho, posted a perfect 9-0 record against Stanford in a 20-7 Irish victory at the dual meet. The epee squad — sophomore Catherine Lee and juniors Nicole Ameli and Ashley Severson — also recorded an undefeated 9-0 mark, theirs coming in a 22-5 win over UC San Diego.
Next on the docket for the Irish was the DeCicco Duals, a home meet for the Irish at the Castellan Family Fencing Center on Feb. 8-9. There, the Irish set a home attendance record of 698 for their bout with Penn State, which came down to the wire, with the women pulling out a 14-13 win. The Irish won 15 of 16 matches over the weekend, including an undefeated 8-0 mark from the women.
After a three-week break, the Irish returned to the Castellan Family Fencing Center for the Midwestern Fencing Conference Championships on March 1-2. On the first day of action, senior Ariel DeSmet and sophomore Lee Kiefer took individual titles in men’s and women’s foil, respectively.
The Irish and Ohio State hovered near the top of the standings throughout the two-day meet for, and the conference title came down to the final match between the women’s epee squads. With the score tied, freshman Eva Niklinska took on Buckeyes sophomore Becca Rutan in a winner-take-all match. Rutan controlled the match and clinched the title for the Buckeyes, 1,590-1,550.
After qualifying 10 of the maximum 12 fencers for the NCAA championships on March 20-23, the Irish travelled to Columbus, Ohio, in hopes of raising their fifth NCAA championship banner since the NCAA combined men’s and women’s championships in 1990. However, the Irish struggled as a team, falling to fifth after the first two days of competition and sliding to sixth by the end of the four-day meet.
The meet was not without its positives, though, as Kiefer became a repeat NCAA champion in women’s foil, facing Irish junior Madison Zeiss for the title. Meinhardt, too, became a two-time NCAA champion, capping his Notre Dame career with the men’s foil crown, in addition to being named the No. 1 foilist in the world.