Jan. 23, 2002
The first United States Fencing Coaches Association poll has a familiar look to it-as St. John’s, Notre Dame, Penn State and Stanford appear poised to wage another tightly-contested battle for the NCAA title. The Red Storm, Irish and Nittany Lions each return at least nine competitors from the 2001 NCAAs(out of a maximum 12), led by 11 retruners for Notre Dame.
St. John’s-which ended Penn State’s run of national titles in 2001-opens atop both the men’s and women’s polls while Notre Dame is No. 2 in both polls, followed by Penn State and Stanford in each ranking. Notre Dame finished third at the 2001 NCAAs, after finishing as runner-up every season from 1996-2000.
Notre Dame will have every chance to stake a claim to the top rankings, as the Irish are slated to fence SJU this Sunday at the New York University Duals. One weeks later, Notre Dame and Stanford will meet at the Air Force Duals-followed by an ND-PSU clash as the highlight matchup at the Feb. 9 Ohio State Duals.
The Irish men are slated to face four other squads currently ranked among the top-10: #5 Columbia and #7 Yale (both at NYU), #8 Ohio State and #10 Air Force (at the Feb. 2 Air Force Duals).
Other top-10 opponents on tap for the ND women include #7 Ohio State, #8 Yale and #9 Columbia-Barnard (at Yale). The Irish women won all four of their matches at the Jan. 13 Northwestern Open, including a wins over 10th-ranked Temple.
Notre Dame returns 11 of its 12 fencers who comprised the third-place contingent at the 2001 NCAA Championship, with junior All-America men’s foilist Forest Walton currently studying in Italy as part of his five-year architecture curriculum. Notre Dame top returners include junior men’s epee captain Jan Viviani (the third-place NCAA finisher in 2000 and again in 2001), junior men’s foil captain Ozren Debic (the 2000 NCAA runner-up, also placing fifth in ’01) and senior men’s sabre captain Andre Crompton (7th at 2001 NCAAs).
Notre Dame’s returners include four other 2001 All-Americans: senior men’s epeeist Brian Casas (7th), fifth-year men’s sabre Andrzej Bednarski (10th) and junior women’s epeeists Meagan Call (5th) and Anna Carnick (12th). Casas, Call and Carnick each are two-time All-Americans while Bednarski is pursuing a rare fourth All-American finish. The Irish also return junior women’s foilist Liza Boutsikaris (2000 All-American, 2001 NCAA competitor), fifth-year women’s sabre captain and two-time NCAA participant Cari McCullough, sophomore women’s sabre Destanie Milo (’01 NCAAs) and her classmate Maggie Jordan-who fenced foil for the Irish in 2001 (including a spot in the NCAAs) before returning this season to sabre.
In addition to the above fencers, several “newcomers” have turned in some impressive results during the past few months, led by the freshman foursome of women’s foilists Alicja Kryczalo and Andrea Ament, men’s epeeist Michael Sobieraj and men’s foilist Derek Snyder. Sophomore Kerry Walton-the younger sister of Forest-also could emerge as a leader of the program after not fencing with the Irish in the spring of 2001.
SJU’s nine NCAA returners include two 2001 national champions-men’s sabre Ivan Lee and women’s epeeist Emese Takacs-plus a pair of 2001 NCAA runner-up performers in women’s sabre Marisa Mustilli (sister of former ND All-America epeeist Nicole Mustilli) and women’s epeeist Arlene Stevens. Other All-America returners for the Red Storm include men’s foilists Joseph Fisher (4th place) and Jonathan Tiomkin (6th), men’s epeeist Doron Levitt (11th) and women’s foilist Elizabeth Thottham (10th), plus 19th-place women’s foil finisher Jean Hergenhan.
SJU’s top losses include 2001 NCAA men’s sabre runner-up Keeth Smart, men’s epeeist Alex Roytblat (4th at NCAAs) and women’s sabre Lauren Colett (19th).
Penn State returns nine of its 11 competitors from the 2001 NCAAs, with women’s epeeist Jessica Burke likewise returning after not competing in the NCAAs due to illness. PSU’s top returners include three 2001 NCAA runner-up finishers: men’s foilist Nontapat Panchan, men’s epeeist Adam Wiercioch and women’s foilist Marta Grochal. Five other All-Americans also return for PSU, led by women’s epeeist Stephanie Eim (3rd at NCAAs), men’s epeeist Daniel Landgren (5th), the women’s sabre tandem of Heather Brostan (6th) and Stephanie Tam (7th) and men’s sabre Mohaymen Rahimi (8th).
PSU’s only NCAA fencers lost from the ’01 NCAA squad were 7th-place women’s foilist Charlotte Walker and 19th-place men’s foil finisher Omar Bhutta.
United States Fencing Coaches Association National Polls (January, 2002)
1. St. John’s (NY), 2. Notre Dame, 3. Penn State, 4. Stanford, 5. Columbia, 6. Princeton, 7. Yale, 8. Ohio State, 9. Pennsylvania, 10. Air Force. Others receiving votes — NYU, Wayne State (MI), MIT, Rutgers, North Carolina, Duke, Brandeis, Brown, Harvard.
1. St. John’s, 2. Notre Dame, 3. Penn State, 4. Stanford, 5. Princeton, 6. Northwestern, 7. Ohio State, 8. Yale, 9. Columbia-Barnard, 10. Temple. Others receiving votes — Pennsylvania, MIT, Rutgers, Wayne State (MI), Duke, North Carolina, NYU, Air Force, Harvard, Brandeis, Brown, Boston College, Cornell.