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Fencing teams seek to defend ACC titles

| Friday, February 26, 2021

The Notre Dame fencing teams will travel down to North Carolina this weekend to defend their conference titles at the ACC Championships. Both the men’s and women’s teams are two-time defending conference champions, with their second-place finishes in 2018 also coming in Chapel Hill. In fact, since the tournament resumed competition in 2015, both teams have won five out of six ACC Championships.

That statistic would indicate the dominance of Notre Dame’s fencing program within the conference, a fact that Associate Head Coach Cedric Loiseau acknowledges.

“We have a better team, there is no reason for us to pretend. Hopefully not cocky, but we have a better team,” Loiseau said. “We are strong, we are pretty well prepared and pretty healthy. We want to win the national championship, so our only motivation is to get to the ACCs and prove we are on the right path.”

He is, however, wary of the competition the Irish will meet in Chapel Hill. Standing between Notre Dame and another ACC Championship are three teams they have not fenced against this year: Duke, North Carolina and Boston College. Of the three, he believes Duke poses the biggest challenge this year.

“Duke is a very strong team, they have a lot of very strong fencers. They are talented and they usually fight pretty hard,” Loiseau said. “We know that they are always very motivated by the ACC Championships, and not that we are not, but our ultimate goal is to win the NCAA. We just try to make sure that we keep our motivation as high for the ACC, but it is probably a bigger deal for them than for us.”

UNC has a relatively new coaching staff that is in the process of turning the program around. Loiseau praised the staffs at UNC for the work they have done to move their program in the right direction.

“UNC is getting stronger every year,” he said. “They have a new head coach that has been doing a fantastic job to build a culture in that team. UNC is very tricky … its like any sport, you never know. You can get surprised and UNC is going to be at home, so that could give them some extra motivation.”

Similarly, Boston College has a new staff that has been tasked with building up a program that had been struggling. While they might not be as far along in their rebuild as UNC, Loiseau was also complimentary about the Eagles progress in recent years.

“The [head coach] has been really doing a good job as well to build up that team, but they are a little behind on that process,” he admitted. “I think that really UNC and Duke are the strongest ones, but again we never underestimate any of these teams because it’s a championship. Those guys really try hard, they work really hard, and that’s the fun part, frankly speaking.”

Expectations are just as high for the individual competition. Of the six individual competitions (epee, foil and sabre for men and women), Notre Dame fencers claimed five of the six Fencer of the Year Awards last season, missing out on only men’s epee. Junior Andrew Machovec (men’s foil), junior Miriam Grady (women’s epee), senior Stefani Deschner (women’s foil) and junior Kara Linder (women’s sabre) returned to the Irish this year and will look to defend their crowns this weekend.

Notre Dame fencers headed down to North Carolina for the weekend have cleared their COVID-19 testing and will receive more testing upon their arrival, per ACC protocols. Loiseau said he is always on the lookout for teaching moments, and he believes the pandemic has provided a perfect one.

“I just think that if the whole pandemic situation has taught everyone one thing it’s to be humble,” he said. “Its hard to say we are completely [bulletproof] to anything.”

That being said, the Irish will have one thing on their mind when they arrive in Chapel Hill.

“We are looking at winning, it is very simple,” Loiseau said.

Fans can catch the ACC Championships on Saturday from 12 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. and from 5:30 p.m. – 6:45 p.m. The individual competition will follow on Sunday from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. Both events can be viewed on the ACC Network Extra.

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