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Fencing

Irish begin season by finding success at Garret Open

| Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Opening its season following back-to-back national championships, Notre Dame returned to competition on Saturday at the Garret Open at University Park, Pennsylvania, hosted by Penn State. The Nittany Lions finished fourth at last year’s NCAA Tournament, 26 points behind Notre Dame’s title-clinching score of 167.

For Irish head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia, those national titles are in the past and his focus is on this current team.

“We start from scratch,” Kvaratskhelia said. “The attitude is determined how you practice every single day, rather than last year. I like to say statistics are for the retired and the fans as for the team, brand new start focusing on, truly it’s cliche, but getting better each and every day.”

That attitude proved successful for the Irish, as they claimed four medals on the women’s side, including a first-place finish by senior Amanda Sirico in epee. The foilists delivered the most well-rounded performance of the weekend, claiming six of the top-11 places, led by junior Morgan Partridge who took second place. Sophomore Reghan Ward rounded out the medal earners for the Irish, taking home third place in sabre.

“I think we are very balanced in every weapon,” Kvaratskhelia said. “The women’s foil happens to be one of our strengths, even missing three of our athletes, they’re so deep, each of them could show a particularly good result.”

These three missing foilist were part of a larger group of seven Notre Dame athletes who were competing at the World Cup in London this past weekend, many of which were some of the top competitors from last year’s team, including reigning-individual national champion sophomore Nick Itkin.

Even in the absence of Itkin, the men posted an impressive finish against the Nittany Lions, claiming five medals on the weekend. Senior Dylan French and junior Aidan Antekeier got the Irish off to an early start, completing the one-two sweep in men’s epee. Sophomores Robert Wong and Joseph Marino earned silver and bronze in foil, respectively, while freshman Jared Smith won bronze in sabre. Fellow rookie Miriam Grady recorded a fifth-place finish in the women’s epee in her collegiate debut.

Kvaratskhelia said he was pleased with the underclassmen performance and that he doesn’t even like to consider them freshman because they are season veterans to the sport.

“In terms of the first experience to the collegiate level they were pretty content where they were and they were pretty aggressive …,” he said. “We always say we are attacking the problem rather than defending.”

Although pleased with the results at the Garret Open, Kvaratskhelia remained consistent in his belief that this team still has to prove itself against top competition.

“Every team has to earn their own medals, and their own place in history,” he said.

As their season continues to warm up, several members of the Notre Dame program will travel to Kansas City, Missouri, on Friday to compete in the USA Fencing North American Cup as individuals. The team will return to compete in the Elite Invitational hosted by Ohio State on Nov. 18. This will mark their first dual meet of the season and the last team competition of the calendar year.

 

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