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Irish fencing starts strong, goes unbeaten at Elite Invitational

Notre Dame fencing picked up where it left off at its opening meet of the season, going undefeated at the University of Pennsylvania’s Elite Invitational Saturday. The Irish went 5-0 in both the men’s and women’s competitions with some standout performances on both sides.

Irish notch big wins over Princeton

Wins over the Princeton Tigers (No. 5 men’s team and No. 1 women’s team) in the morning session propelled the Irish to a stellar performance. The women handled business relatively comfortably, beating Princeton 17-10. For senior Paige Luong and the women’s foil team, it meant just a little bit more.

“Last season, women’s foil went 0-9 [against Princeton] so it was pretty bad. We came into this meet with a target on their back, so we had the goal of doing our best and kicking their butts. We ended up going 6-3 and we were calm and confident, even against their best fencers,” she said.

The men’s team had a tremendous battle to win 14-13 over the Tigers. The saber team came up huge, going 6-3 as a unit and winning the final two bouts to clinch the match. Senior epee Joshua Zhang got a win in the match and stood by as sophomore saber Alexandre Lacaze clinched it for the Irish.

“It was the biggest test of the weekend, and we knew that going in. Everyone was locked in, and saber had two huge bouts at the end to clinch it,” he said.

Zhang spoke about the matchup with Princeton setting the tone for the rest of the meet and bolstering their confidence moving forward.

“I’m just happy we did well across the board because Princeton is some of our biggest competition,” he said. “They also have a deep and talented roster, so I’m happy how, mentally, we pulled it together and embraced the intensity of the moment. We really came together in that first bout and the momentum carried forward the rest of the day. It was by far the biggest win of the weekend.”

Veterans, rookies stand out

A few familiar faces had some outstanding performances throughout the weekend. Reigning women’s epee national champion Kaylin Hsieh went 9-0 on Saturday, including a combined 6-0 against Ivy League opposition (Penn and Princeton). Graduate student saber Jared Smith finished with the best record of any Irish fencer this meet, going 12-0 against four different teams to start his season with a bang.

There were also some new faces making their mark for the Irish squad. Men’s foil had standout performances from freshmen Ziyuan Chen (11-2) and Chase Emmer (10-4). On the women’s side, freshman epeeist Michaela Joyce went 7-1 in her first collegiate competition.

Zhang emphasized how their success sets up the team for the rest of the season.

“The first meet is always the hardest and we had a huge freshman class coming in. College fencing is way different, so it was really encouraging to see the freshmen step up,” he said.

He also underlined how, along with their talent, the young fencers are bringing new energy to the squad. “This weekend we had some of the best vibes since I’ve been here. I think this team is arguably the strongest team I’ve been on so far and the fact we did so well in the first meet is really promising for our season,” Zhang said.

Irish eye bigger goals after unbeaten start

Outside of Princeton, the Irish men also picked up wins against the Air Force Academy (17-10), Long Island University (21-6), North Carolina (16-11) and the tournament hosts, No. 8 Penn (20-7). The women matched the perfect effort with wins over No. 11 Temple (20-7), Long Island University (22-5), No. 14 North Carolina (24-3) and the eighth-ranked host (20-7).

This weekend was Notre Dame’s only fall semester meet and they face a long layoff before its next collegiate competition at the St. John’s Invitational on Jan. 21 in New York. This creates put an extra emphasis on the past weekend as a way to build confidence and momentum before entering the team’s grueling spring schedule.

“This is our only meet of the semester and the only one until January. We had a lot of fencers traveling, so we didn’t even have the full squad. It’s really encouraging to be able to show how deep our team is,” Zhang said. “I think the message we’re sending is to be cautious with our victories. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and be overconfident heading into any meet. This team has everything it needs to win a championship and that’s the end goal.”

Contact Jose Sanchez Cordova at jsanch24@nd.edu.

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