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NCAA Fencing Tournament Day 3: Irish extend lead atop the standings

| Saturday, March 26, 2022

Men’s pool play in the NCAA Fencing Tournament began Saturday at the Castellan Family Fencing Center and it saw Notre Dame extend their lead atop the standings. They came into the day with a 12-bout lead ahead of Princeton and they go into the night with a 17-bout lead on second-place Columbia.

“The girls gave us a huge advantage by having a lead in the first few days,” said sophomore saber Luke Linder, “It’s a little more relaxing, you know, the first day with zeros all across the board. There’s a little more pressure so you have to give respect to the girls for just being brave and going out there, doing their work and putting in a 12-bout lead for us. It was huge to take some stress off us.”

Linder began his attempt to defend his individual title in men’s saber from last year. He finished 10-5 on the day. He sits in sixth overall just ahead of his teammate, senior Jared Smith (9-6) in seventh place. Linder had an up-and-down day, beginning with a 4-3 first round before winning six straight bouts. However, his day ended with two frustrating losses against Harvard.

“There was a couple of bouts I lost that I felt like I shouldn’t have lost. I didn‘t feel like I was fencing to the greatest of my potential. So, in the second round, we came back and tried to fix some things. And then my teammate and I both went 4-0, so we adjusted. There were just some simple things I needed to fix.” said Linder.

Foil, Epee overcome slow starts

In the foil, it was a similar story as two-time national champion Nick Itkin got off to a difficult start, going 2-4 to start the day. “The problem with my fencing early in the day was just mentally, it really wasn‘t like they were playing me,” said Itkin. “I think I just wasn‘t there mentally, and my fencing showed that. I wasn‘t fencing to my fullest ability.”

He fully turned it around though, winning his final nine bouts of the day. Itkin finished at 11-4 and in fourth place in the individual. Itkin‘s fellow foilist, senior Andrew Machovec, had a similarly inconsistent start before settling into the competition to finish 8-7 on the day and in ninth place.

“I‘m just going to come out strong tomorrow. I can‘t come out the way I came out today. So, I’m going to rest, relax tonight and come out more prepared than I did today,” said Itkin.

In the epee, junior Hunter Candreva (8-7) and senior Stephen Ewart (7-8) combined for 15 more points to Notre Dame’s team total. For Candreva, it was a tale of two halves. After a 1-6 start in his first-ever NCAA Championships, he turned it around to finish 7-1. That included four straight wins to close out the day.

“It took me a second to figure out what‘s working and what‘s not working. To maximize my strengths and minimize my weaknesses. Took me a little bit, but I was able to catch on.” said Candreva, “I was able to take my losses and learn from them.”

The Irish take a 17-bout lead into the final day of competition at 155 points ahead of Columbia’s 138. Harvard and Princeton are close behind at 137 and 134, respectively. With 48 total bouts left per team, the magic number is at 32 right now for Notre Dame.

“Today was statistically the hardest for us. We fenced all the guys with the best rankings,” Linder said. “So, tomorrow we just have to keep the same mentality, the same focus and not let up and finish strong.”

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