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Irish head to New York in return to collegiate action

| Friday, January 19, 2018

This weekend, Notre Dame prepares to return to its first collegiate action since early November — the team will head to Jamaica, New York, for the St. John’s SuperCup on Saturday before heading to the NYU Invitational on Sunday. After opening up the season at Ohio State’s Elite Invitational, a tournament in which the Irish fared quite well, many team members have seen competition by participating in monthly USA Fencing North American Cups where, yet again, Notre Dame has put up strong performances.

Head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia has been impressed with his team so far this season. “Our freshmen, such as [epeeist] Stephen Ewart and [foilist] Nick Itkin, have had solid performances in national competition,” he said. “As for the team at the Elite Invitational in November, I thought we were consistent, despite having a few people absent due to World Cups.”

In mid-December when competition was held in Portland, Oregon, five former or current Irish fencers were able to earn podium finishes along with three other members putting together top-10 performances in their respective categories. Among the current team members, junior foilist Sabrina Massialas won bronze, while senior Jonathan Fitzgerald also claimed bronze for men’s sabre. Senior sabreuse Francesca Russo finished sixth and sophomore men’s epeeist Ariel Simmons finished ninth in each of their respective events as well.

At January’s competition, held in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Notre Dame again saw strong results out of many of their team members. Junior Elyssa Kleiner claimed bronze in women’s foil while sophomore Samantha Viqueira snagged 15th, and in junior women’s foil, freshman Isabelle Elizondo and sophomore Morgan Partridge finished fifth and ninth respectively. Also putting together strong weekends were Russo, who finished ninth this time around, sophomore Aidan Antekeier with third in men’s epee and junior Axel Kiefer with eleventh in men’s foil.

With collegiate competition back underway, Kvaratskhelia hopes to have his team in the right mindset, something they will certainly need as they are facing a slew of tough competition throughout the weekend. The schools represented include all of the top six men’s programs, as well as five of the top seven women’s programs

“Our mindset is generally the same from day to day. We have not spoken to the team about winning championships; we continuously talk about improving each day,” Kvaratskhelia said. “This weekend, we will be facing six top-10 teams, so it will be a good gauge as to where we are and what we need to adjust going into the latter half of the year.”

When it comes to mentality, Kvaratskhelia touched on the particular topic of not discussing championships, but with Notre Dame currently standing as reigning national champions, the team knows it has a target on its back and will have to work hard to defend its title.

“One difference is that we will certainly be taking everyone’s best shot as last year’s champions,” said Kvaratskhelia. “From our point of view, this is a different team entirely from last year. We are not trying to ‘repeat.’ We are trying to compete against ourselves, to get our performance to its highest level. If that happens, we can live with whatever result follows.”

For Notre Dame, action gets underway Friday in Jamaica, New York, where in addition to St. John’s, the Irish will be taking on Ohio State, Penn State, Columbia and Harvard. Sunday’s competition will include OSU, Columbia and St. John’s, as well as Wayne State, Northwestern women’s and North Carolina men’s.

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