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Fencing posts strong season, reflects on impact of graduating seniors

| Friday, May 21, 2021

Allison Thornton | The Observer
Irish senior eppee Dasha Yefremenko, left duels teammate junior Miriam Grady duiring the NCAA Regional Championships on March 9, 2019 at Castellan Family Fencing Center.

The Notre Dame fencing team was dominant this season. The men’s and women’s teams won their 11th National Title in program history this year on March 28th, 2021 and had four individual champions along with two runner-ups.

Coach Loiseau spoke about what this team was able to accomplish this season.

“It was an exceptional year with so many things going on, especially with COVID having a major impact when it came to training and conditioning,” Loiseau said. “However, as a team, the job has been done well, with our student-athletes understanding what was at stake and what opportunities were present to them by being allowed back on campus last August.”

He had excitement for what this entire team did, going so as far as to say that when facing other teams this year, “Our team was much more prepared than the other teams we faced this season, and this is because of our athletes’ dedication and hard work.” 

After discussing the teams’ achievements this season, Loiseau discussed what it means to watch the seniors leave.

“It is hard to move on after being around them for the last four years,” he said. “You take it for granted when you coach them every day and almost forget they will be gone eventually, but the memories are there forever.”

When asked about individual seniors, he had high praise for all of them, but mentioned NCAA Champion and foil Stefani Deschner and her accomplishments this season.

“She is going to med school; she was an NCAA Scholar and worked hard consistently, always being a great teammate along the way,” he said. “It makes us happy she won because she was always doing everything possible to make sure she was on top of her game; she is what Notre Dame is all about.”

Loiseau added afterwards that “this does not diminish what others have accomplished this season, but Stefani is the MVP this season.” 

He also went on to give praise to senior epee Ariel Simmons, who won three titles with Notre Dame during his time here, a fantastic feature that very few have accomplished.

“He was a student we highly recruited who originally chose UPenn, but he took a year off and fortunately, he decided to reconsider and come to us, which we are extremely thankful for,” Loiseau said. “He is a big part of the team, very loud, charismatic and is a big departure for us along with Stefani. These two are a backbone to our team; they set the way for those younger on the team to follow their lead.”

Loiseau also gaive praise to seniors epee Dasha Yefremenko, foil Isabelle Elizondo, foil Joseph Marino and sabre Reghan Ward.

“They contributed so much to this team, and we want to mention them because they were starters who qualified to NCAA,” Loiseau said. “While we had to make decisions and send others over them, we were fortunate to have them be here because of everything they did for us. They made us so much better, and while they could have gone to other schools, they chose us. They are incredible students and people, and we will be in contact for the years to come.” 

Loiseau spoke about his favorite memory this season as well.

“If I played the game fair, it would have to be those six in the morning runs during the first semester,” he said. “We had to condition differently this year, and while it was rough during the cold months, we came out much more prepared and ready … Coaches came to the run as well, and while it was hard to get up at six at first, the more we ran together, the closer we became and the more we enjoyed it.”

Finally, when asked about advice that he would give to the seniors, Loiseau stated that “we all have different personal relationships with our graduating seniors, with each one having different things that will motivate them and help them. However, I would say all of these students have grown up so much in front of us, and I am really proud to see how they have evolved. Not trying to sound cheesy, but I would say to keep that up and be proud of who you have become.” 

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