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Six fencers medal for Irish at Midwest Regional championship

| Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Notre Dame had another dominant performance at the Midwest Regional championship in Cleveland on March 10, earning the maximum number of qualifications a team can achieve for the NCAA championships Thursday.

Coming off the ACC championships — where both the men and women finished in second place in team competition, though the women swept the individual event titles and the men took home individual sabre and foil titles — the defending national champions proved they’re every bit prepared for the the national stage, as the team earned six top-three finishes, including two gold medals.

On the women’s side, four fencers earned medals, with junior foilist Sabrina Massialas and junior epeeist Amanda Sirico earning regional champion honors. Junior foilist Elyssa Kleiner and junior sabreuse Tara Hassett finished second in their respective events. In addition to the four medal earners, senior sabreuse Francesca Russo took home fourth place, while the Irish also saw fifth and sixth place finishes in epee from freshman Dasha Yefremenko and junior Julia Barry, respectively. All seven competitors recorded impressive indicator scores, which serve as a point differential value for hits landed, with Massialas leading the team with a net score of 48.

The men’s team also returned with two medalists in foil. Junior Axel Kiefer took second, followed by freshman Nick Itkin in third. They were joined by seniors Jonathan Fitzgerald and Jonah Shainberg, who placed fifth and sixth, respectively, in sabre. The competition concluded with sophomore Ariel Simmons finishing fourth in epee, followed directly by senior Nicholas Hanahan and junior Dylan French in fifth and sixth, respectively.

Irish head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia said he wasn’t surprised by the results of the regional.

“There is a pool of kids that contended for spots, and they’re all capable,” Kvaratskhelia said. “We were completely concentrated on that one mission this past week.” 

The regionals have various national championship qualification availablity depending on the weapon. Qualification is based upon regional results, accounting for 60 percent of the total, and the Fencer’s Seeding Factor, an aggregate ranking of the season’s performance, making up the remaining 40 percent.

Massialas, Kleiner, Sirico, Yefremenko, Russo and Hassett will be competing at the upcoming NCAA championships for the women. For the men, Fitzgerald, Shainberg, Kiefer, Itkin, Hanahan and Simmons will compete. 

Kvaratskhelia said there was never a doubt in his mind whether or not 12 athletes would qualify. And despite still looking for his team to compete at what he believes is its best, he said he is confident they can reach that point come Thursday.

“Looking back on the season, it feels as though we haven’t competed our best up to this point,” Kvaratskhelia said. “This team is capable of peaking at the end. We’re as well prepared as could be.”

The team will travel to Penn State for the NCAA championships, which will run from Thursday through Sunday.

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