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Kiefer, Russo win individual titles as Irish finish third at NCAAs

| Monday, March 23, 2015

Notre Dame won two individual championships and finished third in the team standings at the NCAA championships in Columbus, Ohio, last week.

After the men’s competition wrapped up, the Irish sat in eighth place with 68 points thanks to a strong performance from fifth-year senior foilist Ariel DeSmet. DeSmet — who came in as the fourth-seeded entrant in the event — reached the semifinals before losing 15-8 to the eventual national champion, Stanford junior Alexander Massialas. DeSmet’s efforts led him to the bronze medal.

Fresham Virgile Collineau, the other foilist for the Irish in Columbus, posted a 13-10 record on the weekend, finishing in 11th place.

Freshman sabreist Jonah Shainburg also had a strong performance for the Irish; he also went 13-10, but finished 12th in the class to lead the Irish in the sabre. Teammate and fellow freshman Jonathan Fitzgerald finished 20th after a 7-16 showing.

Junior Garrett McGrath used a 6-2 final day performance to finish 13th in the epee, while freshman Nicholas Hanahan rode an 8-15 tournament to finish 22nd.

It was the women’s competition where the Irish made up ground, jumping from eighth to third on the final day behind individual championships from junior foilist Lee Kiefer and freshman sabreuse Francesca Russo.

For Kiefer, it was her third consecutive national title in the event, but it did not come as easily as the prior two. After a 15-7 semifinal win over St. John’s senior Marta Hausman, Keifer had to grind in the championship, winning by a slim 15-13 margin against Columbia junior Margaret Lu. The final was tied at 11, 12 and 13 touches before Kiefer snagged the last two touches of the bout to win the crown.

With the win, Kiefer becomes just the sixth collegiate fencer to add national titles as a freshman, sophomore and junior and the third woman in the prestigious club.

Irish senior Madison Zeiss also had a strong performance in the foil, posting a 16-7 record to finish in fifth place. Zeiss — who was runner-up to Kiefer last year — finished her career with a second-team All-American performance and will stay with the program as an assistant coach next year.

Russo snuck into the semifinals as the fourth seed in the sabre and converted on her opportunity, upsetting the first and second seeds in the class to earn the national title in her freshman year. She defeated the defending national champion, Harvard sophomore Adrienne Jarocki, in the semifinal before cruising to victory over Penn State freshman Karen Chang in the final. Russo utilized a quick succession of parry-riposte combinations to establish an early lead and never looked back, winning the contest and the crown 15-5.

Senior epee Ashley Severson finished ninth in her final competition with the Irish while senior Nicole Ameli posted a 12-11 record to finish 13th.

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