Mariel Zagunis went 9-0 en route to winning the 2006 Midwest Regional and now is 115-6 in collegiate bouts during her Notre Dame career (photo by Pete LaFleur).

Defending Champs Likely Qualify 10 For NCAAs, With Two Others Strong At-Large Candidates

March 4, 2006

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Notre Dame fencing team had a strong showing at the annual NCAA Midwest Regional, held at Cleveland State’s Wolstein Center Annex Gym. Based on pre-regional seedings and Saturday’s results, Notre Dame likely has qualified 10 of the maximum 12 fencers and has a strong chance to add two more NCAA competitors via at-large entries.

Sophomore sabre standout Mariel Zagunis – the 2004 Olympic gold medalist and ’05 NCAA runner-up – breezed through her six pool bouts (outscoring her opponents 30-4) before adding three more wins in the direct-elimination phase to win the Regional title. Zagunis has racked up a 115-6 record (.950) in college bouts during her Notre Dame career, with four of those losses coming versus her U.S. national teammate Emily Jacobson (who fences at Columbia).

The nine other Notre Dame fencers who likely secured spots in the NCAAs (to be held March 16-19, in Houston) include two Regional runner-ups – junior epeeist Aaron Adjemian and freshman foilist Adrienne Nott – plus four others who placed third at the Regional: junior sabreists Valerie Providenza and Patrick Ghattas and freshman epeeists Karol Kostka (men) and Madeleine Stephan. Freshman foilist Mark Kubik (4th), sophomore foilist Melanie Bautista (5th) and junior sabre veteran Matt Stearns (6th) round out Notre Dame’s probable automatic qualifiers.

The NCAA field formally will be announced on March 7 and will include 24 fencers in each of the six weapons – with 22 advancing via the four Regional competitions, in addition to two at-large entrants per weapon. The Irish will be hoping for the full allotment of 12 fencers, as sophomore foilist Jakub Jedrkowiak (5th at Regional) and junior epeeist Amy Orlando (7th) are leading at-large candidates due to their strong power rating in the pre-Regional seedings (Jedrkowiak was the #2 seed, Orlando #4).

The Midwest will send five fencers to the NCAAs in every weapon except men’s foil, with just three spots allocated to the Midwest in that weapon (thus forcing Jedrkowiak into the at-large route).

Notre Dame appears to have gained an edge on its growing rival Ohio State (the ’04 champion and ’05 runner-up) heading into the NCAAs, as the Buckeyes likely qualified the maximum six men’s fencers but only three on the women’s side (with another potential at-large spot, in women’s epee). The Buckeyes entered the Regional with no fencers seeded higher than 12th in women’s foil, with that fencer (Amelia Galliard) improving on her seed but still only finishing 8th.

Here’s a weapon-by-weapon recap of the Regional results:

WOMEN’S SABRE – The top-seeded Zagunis swept her six pool bouts (allowing four total touches) and then was the #1 seed in the direct-elimination, beating Northwestern’s Emily Pasternak (#5 preliminary seed) in the quarterfinals (15-5), Providenza is a classic semifinal battle (15-13) and OSU’s Siobhan Byrne (#4 seed) in the 15-4 final … 2nd-seeded Providenza went 4-2 in her pools (dropping her into the 4-5 quarterfinal) – with a win over Northwestern’s Mai Vu (#7 seed) and losses to OSU’s Eileen Grench (#6 seed) and Wayne State’s Katarzyna Kuzniak (#3 seed) – before an impressive 15-3 quarterfinal vs. OSU’s Grench (highlighted by eight straight parry-riposte touches), the loss to Zagunis and a rematch win over Kuzniak in the 3rd-place bout … Byrne had defeated Kuzniak in the other semifinal … Grench beat her OSU teammate Syvenna Siebert (the #11 seed) for 5th place while Pasternak topped her teammate Vu for 7th place … ND freshman Ashley Serrette (#13 seed) registered a win in the pools to claim the final spot in the DE (#11), followed by losses vs. Siebert (15-8) and Northwestern’s Gina Annunziato (15-10) to finish 11th … ND junior Angela Vincent failed to reach the DE, finishing 12th … Providenza repeated as the Midwest runner-up (she also was 5th at the ’04 Regional) … Zagunis did not fence in the ’05 Regional, due to a World Cup conflict.

MEN’S SABRE – Ghattas entered as the #1 seed and maintained that spot after going 6-0 in his pool bouts, with noteworthy wins over OSU’s Jason Rogers (5-3) and Adam Crompton (5-2), the #5 and #6 seeds, plus a 5-2 bout with Detroit’s Jarislaw Jelinek (a 2005 NCAA entrant) … Ghattas then beat the #4 seed Jelinek again in the quarterfinals (15-10) but lost the rematch vs. Crompton (15-6) before topping OSU’s Jason Paul (the #10 seed) in the 3rd-place bout (15-12) … Stearns headed to the Regional as the #2 seed while ND freshman Bill Thanhouser was the 3rd seed, meaning that the fencer that finished higher likely would earn the team’s second NCAA spot in men’s sabre (Thanhouser’s 8th-place finish was two spots behind Stearns) … Stearns opened 4-2 in the pools – with a 5-4 win over OSU’s Mike Momtselidze (#7 seed) and a 5-4 loss to Thanhouser – to earn the #6 seed in the DE … he then bested ND senior Nico Diacou in the first DE bout (15-7) and lost to Momtselidze in the quarterfinals (15-10) before edging Thanhouser (15-14) and losing to Rogers in the 5th-place bout … Thanhouser also went 4-2 in the pools – with losses to Paul (5-3) and Momtselidze (5-1) – and was seeded 7th into the DE, beating #12 seed John Downey of Cleveland State (15-8) and losing to Paul in the quarters (15-10), before the 15-14 loss to Stearns and a 15-12 loss to Jelinek in the 7th-place bout … the 13th-seeded Diacou went 1-5 in the pools to earn the final DE spot (11th), next losing to Stearns (15-7) but beating Downey (15-0) and then being edged by WSU’s Bobby Smith (#8 seed) to finish 10th … Crompton beat Momtselidze in the title bout … the strong showing by the 6th-seeded Crompton and #7 seed Momtselidze likely could result in Rogers (#5 seed, finished 5th) missing the NCAAs … Rogers is a three-time All-American and was a member of the U.S. 2004 Olympic team … Ghattas was the 2005 Regional champ, after finishing 4th in ’05 (Stearns was 4th in ’04 and ’05).

MEN’S EPEE – Adjemian had an adventurous showing at the previous two Regionals (narrowly missing an NCAA spot in ’04 and then edging teammate Greg Howard for a spot in the ’05 NCAA field) and the drama continued on Saturday, as the 4th-seeded Adjemian delivered his runner-up finish to apparently secure a return trip to the NCAAs … Adjemian’s 5-0 record in the pools included wins over his teammate Kostka (5-1), #7 seed Jason Pryor of OSU (5-3) and #5 seed Christian Rivera of OSU (5-4), earning him the #1 seed into the DE bracket … Adjemian then beat Pryor in the quarterfinals (15-11) and the 3rd-seeded Howard in a 15-6 semifinal (with the team’s second NCAA spot essentially on the line) … WSU’s Marek Petraszek (the #2 seed and ’05 NCAA runner-up) beat Adjemian in the title bout … Kostka entered the Regional as the #1 seed but struggled in his pool bouts (2-3), slipping to the #7 seed in the DE before a big win over OSU’s Denis Tolkachev (#6 pre-Regional seed) in the quarterfinals (15-13), a classic battle with fellow Poland native Petraszek in a 14-13 semifinal and a win over Howard in the 3rd-place bout … Howard’s 4-1 record in the pools included a split of 5-4 bouts with Petraszek (win) and Tolkachev (loss) … the sophomore captain then was the #4 seed in the DE, beating ND junior Patrick Gettings in the quarterfinals (15-9) before the semifinal loss to Adjemian and the 3rd-place bout vs. Kostka (completing his three straight bouts vs. ND fencers) … Gettings was seeded 10th but went 5-0 during the fence-in bouts and then 3-2 in the pools, topping Howard (5-3) with losses to Petraszek (5-4) and Tolkachev (5-1) … he was seeded 5th into the DE but lost to Howard and Pryor (15-12) before besting Rivera in the 7th-place bout (15-12) … Tolkachev (finished 5th) and Pryor (6th) are OSU’s apparent qualifiers, meaning that the All-American Rivera (8th) may not compete in the ’06 NCAAs … Adjemian previously was 4th at the ’04 Regional and 5th in ’05 (Howard was 7th in ’05).

WOMEN’S EPEE – This weapon also featured an impressive surge by an ND fencer, as Stephan was the #5 pre-Regional seed, then dropped to the #11 seed for the DE before rallying for her 3rd-place finish … Stephan beat her ND classmate Kim Montoya (#7 pre-Regional seed, #6 in DEs) in a 15-8 bout that opened the DEs, adding a 15-10 quarterfinal victory over OSU All-American Kaela Brendler (#6 seed) before losing to WSU’s Justyna Konczalska in the semifinals (15-10) and besting Northwestern’s Sharon Sullivan (#3 seed) in the 3rd-place bout (15-11) … Orlando entered as the #4 seed but slipped to a #9 seed in the DE … she then surged to a 7th-place finish, with a 15-10 win over Northwestern’s Sara Pecherek (#11 seed), another epic battle (15-14 loss) with top-seeded Anna Garina of WSU (the ’04 and ’05 NCAA champ) in the quarterfinals, a 15-11 loss to OSU’s Aleksandra Obrazcova (#8 seed) and a 15-11 win over Northwestern’s Courtney Dubois (#9 seed) … Montoya ended up 9th after her DE bouts vs. Stephan, #15 seed Pam Marvinney of CSU (15-14) and Pecherek (15-9) … ND fifth-year senior Becca Chimahusky was the #13 seed and went undefeated in her fence-in bouts before failing to advance from the pools to the DE (she ended up 14th) … Konczalska beat Garina in the title bout … other top finishers included Brendler (5th), Obrazcova (6th) and DuBois (8th) … Brendler likely secured one of the Region’s NCAA bids while Obrazcova probably will join Orlando as at-large hopefuls … Orlando was 7th at the ’04 Regional and 5th in ’05 (Chimahusky was 7th in ’04 and 3rd in ’05).

WOMEN’S FOIL – Nott was the #2 seed but dropped to the 6th seed for the DEs before matching her initial seed with a runner-up finish, beating #14 seed Marguerite Plekhanov of OSU (15-1) and then Northwestern’s Natalie Wang (#7 seed) in a 15-11 quarterfinal, followed by a 15-13 semifinal win over 2nd-seeded Jessica Florendo of Northwestern and a 15-7 loss to the top seed Sam Nemecek (also of Northwestern) in the title bout … her fellow ND freshman Emilie Prot was seeded 4th and Bautista 5th, with Bautista’s higher finish (5th, to Prot’s 7th) likely securing the team’s second NCAA spot … Bautista’s pool rounds landed her a #8 seed in the DEs but she then beat #9 seed Leigh Pendergrass of CSU (15-9), lost a 15-6 quarterfinal to Nemecek, bested #12 seed Amelia Galliard of OSU (15-11) and defeated Natalie Wang in the 5th-place bout (15-12) … Prot also dropped back after the pool bouts and was the #7 seed in the DE, beating #6 seed Lindsey Howard of WSU (15-12) before losing twice by that same score, vs. Florendo and Nemecek (she then finished 7th with a 14-11 win over Galliard) … ND senior Colleen Walsh was the #13 seed and finished 12th, narrowly missing a spot in the 11-fencer DE … Florendo beat her teammate Christina Wang (#11 seed) in the 3rd-place bout … Bautista placed 6th at the ’05 Regional and was an alternate for the ’05 NCAAs.

MEN’S FOIL – Kubik entered as the top seed and ended up 4th, with his DE bouts including a 15-11 quarterfinal vs. ND junior Frank Bontempo (#5 pre-Regional seed) and a 15-13 loss to 6th-seeded Dimitri Kirk-Gordon of OSU in the 3rd-place bout … Jedrkowiak came in as the 2-seed but placed 5th, dropping a 15-12 quarterfinal to Kirk-Gordon but topping Detroit’s Craig Budzynski (#7 seed) in the 5th-place bout … Bontempo completed his 7th-place finish with a 15-3 win over OSU’s Will Jeter (#9 seed) … ND sophomore Diego Quinonez (#11 seed) advanced through the fence-in bouts and pools, earning a #9 seed but losing to Budzynski (15-10) to finish 9th … OSU’s Boaz Ellis (#4 seed) beat his teammate Andras Horanyi (#3 seed) in the title bout … Bontempo placed 3rd at the ’04 Regional and 5th in ’05 (Jedrkowiak was 2nd in ’05).