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Fencing

Irish dominate ACC Championships at Cameron Indoor

| Monday, February 28, 2022

The top-ranked Notre Dame fencing team headed to Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina this weekend for the ACC Championships. It marked their return to the competition after missing the championships last year with a COVID-19 outbreak. Prior to that, Notre Dame had won the ACC Championship in five of the last six years for both the men’s and women’s teams.

The Irish entered this weekend as heavy favorites to reclaim both those titles, with championship hosts Duke posing the greatest threat to Notre Dame’s ACC dominance. The Blue Devils won both titles in Notre Dame’s absence last year and entered the meet with the sixth-ranked men’s team and twelfth-ranked women’s teams in the country.

Individual Results

The meet began on Saturday with the six individual ACC titles on the line. The men contested their bouts in the morning and were followed by the women in the afternoon. The competition with a pool play format where all contestants faced each other once. The top four by record then continued into a semifinal and then a final to decide the champion.

Saber

In the women’s saber, Notre Dame had a strong pool performance with sophomore Daria Kudriavtseva winning 13 of her 14 bouts to claim the top seed in the semifinals. Sophomore Atara Greenbaum joined her, going 11-3 to claim the second seed in the semifinals.

In the semi-finals, Kudriavtseva and Greenbaum both cruised through their match ups with comfortable double-digit victories over Duke fencers. In the all-Irish final, it was Kudriavtseva who prevailed with a 15-9 victory over her teammate. That performance capped an outstanding Saturday for Kudriavtseva. She went 15-1 overall en route to claiming her first ACC individual title in the saber.

Kudriavtseva fenced the best weekend of her Notre Dame career after previously being unsure if sure she’d compete.

“Honestly, it’s quite unbelievable, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to come here,” Kudriavtseva said to the ACC Network following her victory. “My family is in Ukraine right now, so it’s been quite emotional since Wednesday. I honestly don’t know how I did it today.”

“I had absolutely no expectations, I was just hoping that I could fence the best that I can,” Kudriavtseva continued. “As I started getting into it this morning, I felt quite confident. And I kept distracting myself from my thoughts about fencing, and I was just constantly thinking about back home and family. I think that’s what helped me a lot today.”

In men’s saber, Notre Dame qualified the top two seeds from pool play with senior Malcolm Fields going 11-4 to claim the top spot. Senior Jared Smith went 10-5 with a pool-best +32 touch differential to claim the two seed in the semis.

In the semifinals, Fields won a close match 15-14 over Duke’s Terence Lee as Smith defeated Boston College’s Bolang Meng 15-8. This made for an all-Irish final where Smith, the 2020 ACC individual runner-up, went one better and defeated teammate Fields 15-7 to claim the individual saber title.

Foil

In men’s foil, senior Andrew Machovec went 12-1 in pool play to qualify as the top seed for the semi-final. He then went on to dominate the semi-final 15-2 before a closely contested final where he trailed 13-9 but came from behind to win on the final touch and defeat Boston College’s Brian Wang 15-14.

“I think the biggest thing for me today was just to keep calm in the final,” Machovec told the ACC Network after the bout. “Just stay calm, relax, fence through it and just keep going until the end.”

This is Machovec’s second ACC title in the foil following his win the last time the Irish competed in 2020.

The women’s foil saw Notre Dame qualify three fencers to the four-women semifinal. Sophomore Karina Yaroshenko and freshman Rebeca Candescu topped pool play by both going 12-2, with Yaroshenko claiming the top seed by virtue of touch differential. Solène Watson also qualified for the semifinal as the fourth seed with an 11-3 record. The final Irish foilist, freshman Nicole Pustilnik, also put together a strong performance going 8-6 to finish in fifth place.

The first semifinal saw Yaroshenko defeat teammate Watson with a convincing 15-6 victory. In the other semifinal, Candescu took care of Duke’s Christina Ferrari to make it an all-Notre Dame final. Candescu then claimed the ACC title with a 15-9 victory over teammate Yaroshenko who settled for silver.

Epee

In women’s epee, sophomore Amanda Pirkowski shined for the Irish. She dominated pool play going 14-1 to qualify as the top seed for the semifinals. Senior and two-time ACC Champion Miriam Grady went 9-6 finishing in fifth position and just missing out on the semifinal.

Pirkowski was dominant in the semifinal beating Duke’s Rachel Kowalsky by a convincing 15-4 margin. She then claimed the ACC title with a 15-10 win over Duke’s Sarah Lurye in the final.

In men’s epee, Notre Dame dominated pool play with senior Stephen Ewart going 13-2 and clinching the top seed in the semifinal. Junior Hunter Candreva also qualified for the semifinal as the fourth seed with a 9-6 record. The other two Irish epeeists also had good showings with juniors Harrison Kimatian and Joshua Zhang both compiling 9-6 records to finish fifth and sixth, respectively.

It was an all-Irish affair in the semifinal as Candreva defeated Ewart 15-11 in a closely contested matchup. Candreva then faced UNC freshman Eli Lippman in the final, losing 15-10 and claiming the silver medal for Notre Dame. Ewart joined him on the podium as he won his bronze-medal match, defeating BC’s Daniel Gaidar 15-10.

In all, Notre Dame claimed 10 individual medals at the ACC Championships, including five of the six individual titles. There were also four silver medal finishes and one bronze for Irish fencers.

Team Competition

The team competition saw even more success for Notre Dame. The Irish reclaimed the men’s and women’s conference titles. For both teams, it came down to the final round matchup against Duke.

The men had comfortable 16-11 and 17-10 wins over BC and UNC, respectively. Then they defeated Duke 17-10 in their third match to avoid a fence-off and win the team championship.

The saber stood out on Sunday as individual champion Smith went 8-1 for the Irish on the day. The defending national champion, sophomore Luke Linder, also made an appearance Sunday after sitting out the individual championship. He went 4-0 on the day, including a perfect three bouts against Duke in the championship-clinching match.

The women entered the final match against Duke with both teams at 2-0. It was a winner-take-all match. The Blue Devils started out strong and held an early 8-4 advantage. Then the Irish went on a run, winning 10 of the next 11 bouts to clinch at 14-9.

Much of the momentum on this run came from the saber squad. They dropped the first bout and fell into a 4-2 hole. With Duke needing just one more bout to clinch the saber, the mood seemed to shift after Kudriavtseva won the seventh bout 5-4.

Tied 4-4, Kudriavtseva won the final bout in a close engagement where the referee had to check the replay. The touch was upheld to give Notre Dame the bout. After that, Linder and Greenbaum won the final two bouts to clinch the saber matchups 5-4. That helped complete the Notre Dame comeback; they won 14 of the final 15 bouts.

In the end, Notre Dame defeated Duke 18-9 to clinch the women’s team ACC championship. In particular, the foil squad had a spectacular day, going 23-4 throughout the three matches. Pustilnik put together a perfect 9-0 day in the team competition.

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