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Irish to return to action after two weeks off

| Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Notre Dame is set to return to the strip this weekend for the Northwestern Duals, held on Notre Dame’s campus, after two weeks without competition.

The Irish, who sit No. 1 in the women’s rankings and No. 2 in the men’s, were scheduled to fence twice in New York last week, but the St. John’s Duals and NYU Invitational were both cancelled due to Winter Storm Jonas. Irish head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia said it was hard for his team to miss this premier competition.

Junior epee Arthur Le Meur fences during the DeCicco Duels at the Castellan Family Fencing Center at Notre Dame on Jan. 16.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer
Junior epee Arthur Le Meur fences during the DeCicco Duals at the Castellan Family Fencing Center at Notre Dame on Jan. 16.

“Obviously, the team was disappointed to not fence,” Kvaratskhelia said. “We felt we were ready to face great opponents. Some of the teams we were to face have arranged to be here this weekend, plus we have some other tough opponents. Not traveling allows us to have a full week of practice, so we should be ready.”

Although the duals are not technically at home for the Irish, Northwestern will be hosting the invitational at Castellan Family Fencing Center while their Henry Crown Sports Pavilion undergoes renovations. Seventeen teams will travel to Notre Dame, including four top-10 teams from each the men’s and women’s side: women’s No. 3 and men’s No. 8 Princeton, women’s No. 6 and men’s No. 7 Ohio State, men’s No. 3 and women’s No. 9 Penn, women’s No. 10 Temple and men’s No. 10 Stanford will all be in attendance.

As reigning ACC champions, Kvaratskhelia said the men’s and women’s teams are preparing for every bout with a championship mentality.

“Fans should expect a tough team that will fight for every touch and every bout,” Kvaratskhelia said. “The whole season is a build-up. Every match is important; we want to win them all. But it all builds toward the ACCs, the NCAA regional and the NCAA championships.”

The men’s squad, sitting behind only Columbia in the polls, is led by a pair of sabres, sophomore Jonah Shainberg and senior John Hallsten, while the top-ranked women’s team sits behind nobody, featuring freshman foilist Sabrina Massialas and senior epee Catherine Lee. Kvaratskhelia highlighted Lee’s leadership at the DeCicco Duals two weeks ago, and said the team will need to rely on its past leaders to remain determined through the end of this season.

“We’re facing some very tough competition,” Kvaratskhelia said. “But our opponents are looking at us and saying the same thing. All I’m concerned about is for us to have fun and to not let fear get in the way.”

The Irish team takes the strip for the two-day meet Saturday morning at Castellan Family Fencing Center.

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