Irish dominate annual DeCicco Duals
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, January 30, 2023
By Annika Herko, Olivia Schatz and Aidan Thomas
The Notre Dame Fencing program hosted the annual DeCicco Duals this past weekend, welcoming in a series of Division II and Division III programs, as well as club teams. Both the men and women went 12-0 on the weekend, as the meet served as an opportunity to work their depth and tune up for bigger tournaments to come.
“We were able to give some more space to our second and third line,” assistant coach Christian Rascioni noted after the tournament. “Overall, a very good amount of bouts. An interesting weekend.”
Notre Dame faced Wayne State (Division II) in their first match. Leading off for the Irish in foil was freshman Paulo Morais who won his first bout 5-2. They were delayed slightly as the sensors on their blade tips seemed not to be reading correctly — this happened occasionally throughout the tournament. The men went 7-2. For the women in foil, Tianji Lukina, Daena Talavera and Ariadna Tucker all lost to their competitor Ludovica Mancini from Wayne State in competitive, well-paced matches. However, as she was their only female fencer in foil, the Irish women won 6-3 in that blade. In epee, Riley Robinson won a back-and-forth match against his competitor that caused everyone not currently in a bout to come and watch. Against the Warriors, Notre Dame’s women’s team won 24-3, and the men took a 20-7 victory.
Notre Dame faced Florida (a club team) in the third round of the tournament. Grant Dorill, Henry Nadile and Konrad Czyzewski won all of their bouts for sabre. The most exciting one was Czyzewski’s second bout against Florida’s Brian Seol. Both fencers came out strong from the beginning, screaming in celebration with each point scored. In the one point bout, Czyzewski came out victorious. Both the women’s and men’s teams went undefeated in sabre helping the Irish to a 26-1 win in the match for the women and 25-2 for men vs. the Gators.
In the fourth round of the competition, Notre Dame fenced against Lawrence (Division 3). Anne Myler 5-3 got the first win in epee for the Irish women’s team. Graduate student Miriam Grady then defeated her competitor 5-0 in bout with elegant footwork and swift strikes (the Lawrence team did not have names on the back of their uniforms). Grady seemed to have no trouble handling her but moved decisively with each touch. After losses in their first bouts, Tontcheva and Cucala battled to 5-4 and 5-2 victories, respectively, over their competitors by taking up aggressive attacks. The Women’s team went 7-2 in epee helping the Irish go 6-3 in the match. The Men’s team went 24-3 in epee and 20-7 in their third match of the day.
After the match, sabre coach Christian Rasconi was impressed with what he saw out of his young team and noted how he thinks they can improve.
“We were not starting with the first line, but had the second and even third line in and most of them are freshmen. It’s a very good opportunity to build their experience. We started a little slower than we were expecting but so far they’ve done a good job. We need to learn to be ready at the right moment. When we’re starting, we absolutely need to be ready.”
After a dominating morning, the Fighting Irish opened up their afternoon set against Detroit Mercy. Again, Notre Dame did not take their foot off the gas as both the men’s and women’s teams defeated Detroit Mercy, 27-0.
The men’s team only gave up 8 points to the Titans, all of which were lost in the Epee bouts. Even with these small downfalls, the closest matchup was 5-2 in two separate matches.
The women’s team were in a similar vein, only giving up 11 points throughout the first round, eight of which were in Epee. The other three points were all in Sabre, where the closest bouts were 5-1
“We have a lot of energy, I love it,” assistant coach Rolando Tucker-Leon said, “ I really loved the energy, we had a lot of energy and positivity. We fight, I really loved it.”
This energy was palpable throughout the entire afternoon, as bout after bout Irish fencers were cheering on their fellow teammates as they dominated the weekend.
While the Irish did lose some bouts against their second opponent of the afternoon, Cleveland State, they ultimately won by a large margin on both teams.
The men notched 21 wins to the Viking’s six. Out of these, six were one-touch bouts. Of the six, the Irish only won two. With this, however, four out of the six victories for Cleveland State came out of one touch matches.
The women also dominated with a 23-4 victory over the vikings. Again, the Irish had six one-touch matches. All four of Cleveland State’s victories were won in this manner.
To close off Saturday’s tournament, both the men and women’s teams defeated their last opponent Denison 27-0.
While the Irish undoubtedly dominated the tournament, it is important that there is an opportunity for regional schools to participate in tournaments like this. In addition, due to the level of competition, Notre Dame was able to rotate their roster and have younger faces fence for the Irish.
“It’s a great thing,” Tucker-Leon said. “We are bringing new people and many more people are falling in love with this sport and it’s something I really love to see.”
Sunday morning was faced with similar energy from the Irish. When asked about his expectations for Sunday’s matchups, Tucker-Leon responded:
“Of course I have expectations to beat everybody and win all the matches and have a lot of fun.”
The Irish surely did meet Tucker-Leon’s expectations as on the day the men and women’s team combined dropped a total of 23 points: there was a total of 324 points up for grabs on Sunday.
Starting early at 9 a.m. against Purdue, Notre Dame was ready. The only loss for the women’s team against the Boilermakers was in foil, and they took care of the remaining 26 matches handily, only three of which were one-touch bouts.
The men’s team dropped two points against Purdue, one in sabre and one in foil.
University of Chicago was the closest matchup for the Irish. However, Notre Dame sealed their victory. The men’s team lost six matchups, spread throughout all three disciplines, while the women’s team only dropped two, both in sabre.
In their last matchup of the morning, Notre Dame women’s team swept Michigan, only allowing four bouts to reach the maximum nine touches.
The men’s team lost five bouts but pulled through in the end.
“Something we need to keep in mind is even though lately we are used to win[ning] that we need to be thinking that we can not take these victories for granted and fight every single point for the victory,” Tucker-Leon said.
The Irish wrapped up their efforts with wins over Case Western. The men won 23-4 and the women triumphed 27-0. In total, the women won three of their matches via a 27-0 scoreline on Sunday, dropping five bouts in total on the day. Rascioni noted that the Irish did well to focus on their own improvements while not losing focus. “It’s the perfect occasion to work on some specifics. At the same time, keeping the focus on winning the bouts. Keeping it very simple.”
The Irish also mixed it up in the tournament finale, with some fencers switching away from their speciality to try a different weapon.
“It’s fun sometimes for the kids to try some different weapons and work some different skills, always minding that we try to not drop any bouts,” Rascioni said.
The Irish head to the Northwestern Duals for another smaller tournament next weekend. They will then return to the East coast to face some higher-level competition at Duke.
“It’s never easy. We work a lot in the training sessions to get them ready. We try to keep the focus always high and to adapt to different situations,” Rascioni said. “To fence more expert fencers or to face a little less challenging situations.”
Contact Annika Herko at [email protected], Olivia Schatz at [email protected] and Aidan Thomas at [email protected]