March 20, 2002

MADISON, N.J. – The Notre Dame fencing program begins its four-day national championship quest on Thursday at Drew University in Madison, N.J., with the women’s competition set to open the NCAA Combined Fencing Championships.

Twenty-four entrants in each of the three women’s weapons (foil, epee and sabre) will face off in round-robin format during the first two days of the NCAAs, with each fencer competing in 15 bouts on Thursday and eight on Friday (beginning at 10:00 a.m. each day). Each individual victory in the round-robin format counts one point to a team’s score, with the top four in each weapon advancing to the individual semifinals on Friday afternoon (at 2:30 p.m.).

The opening-day pairings will not be determined until Thursday morning.

The individual semifinals and finals include 15-touch bouts (the round-robin are five-touch) and do not factor into the team scoring.

(Note: the Notre Dame sports hotline will include periodic updates during each day of the NCAAs, with the on-site updates being posted on the 574-631-3000 hotline number, followed by option “9” and then option “1” … also will be providing complete coverage from the NCAAs throughout the four-day event).

The NCAAs conclude with the men’s competition on Saturday and Sunday, using the same format. The maximum points that one school can compile in the four-day event is 300, with St. John’s (180) edging Penn State (172) for the 2001 NCAA title while Notre Dame was third with 153 points. The Irish had finished as runner-up to PSU in each of the previous five NCAAs, after finishing third in 1995 and winning the program’s fifth NCAA title in 1994.

Notre Dame and Penn State are the only schools that qualified the maximum 12 fencers (two per weapon) for the 2002 NCAAs, followed by St. John’s with 11 and Ohio State with 10.

The Irish women remained third in the final U.S. Fencing Coaches Association national poll, with SJU holding down the top spot while PSU was second (OSU and Northwestern are tied for fifth in the women’s poll).

Penn State and St. John’s are the favorites in the women’s competition, with PSU returning four All-American (top-12) performers from the 2001 NCAAs – plus 2000 NCAA epee champion Jessica Burke (she did not fence in the ’01 NCAAs). PSU’s Marta Grochal was the 2001 NCAA runner-up in foil while Stephanie Eim was third in the 2001 NCAA epee competition.

The St. John’s women return three All-Americans from the 2001 NCAAs, led by the top two finishers in epee (Emesa Takacs and Arlen Stevens). Notre Dame’s lone returning All-American on the women’s side is junior epee captain Anna Carnick (Mishawaka, Ind.), although several Irish newcomers are expected to contend for top honors on Friday afternoon.

The women’s epee field is loaded with 13 returners from the 2001 NCAAs (eight of them All-Americans, plus the 2000 champion Burke) while 13 women’s sabre competitors (seven All-Americans) likewise return, as do 10 in women’s foil (six All-Americans). The women’s foil field also is boosted by several strong NCAA first-timers, including both Notre Dame entrants (see below) and Irina Khoude of St. John’s.

Other top returners include Stanford’s Iris Zimmerman (the 2001 NCAA foil champ), Northwestern sabre Kate Rudkin (4th at the ’01 NCAAs) and three of the top-four finishers from the 2001 NCAA sabre competition: Yale’s Sada Jacobson (1st), M.I.T.’s Caroline Purcell (2nd) and Temple’s Sakinah Shaddhid (4th).

Notre Dame’s six competitors include three who are considered top contenders for a spot in the semifinals. Sophomore Kerry Walton (Londonderry, N.H.) – who is making her NCAA debut, after not fencing with the Irish during her freshman year – recently was one of three women’s epeeists named to the U.S. World Junior Championship team. She posted a 50-5 regular-season record in 2002 (for the fourth-best season winning pct., .909, ever by an ND women’s epeeist) before winning the Midwest Fencing Conference title and placing third at the Midwest Regional Championship.

The freshman duo of Alicja Kryczalo (Gdansk, Poland) and Andrea Ament (Cleveland, Ohio) rank among the top women’s foilists in the Midwest, with Kryczalo posting a 39-2 regular-season record while winning the Midwest Fencing Conference and Midwest Regional titles (she also won the gold medal at Penn State’s Max Garrett Open in the fall of 2001). Ament – part of the U.S. three-member foil team that will compete in the World Juniors – won 27 of her 29 regular-season bouts before placing fifth at the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships and third at the Midwest Regional.

Carnick will be looking for her third All-America finish, after placing 9th at the 2000 NCAAs and 12th in ’01 (she posted a 46-8 regular-season record in 2002, boosting her career mark to 140-36).

Notre Dame’s final two competitors are taking aim at their first All-America honors, as fifth-year senior captain Carianne McCullough (Philadelphia, Pa.) and sophomore Destanie Milo (Knox, Ind.) could be two of the key components to Notre Dame’s team score heading into the men’s competition. McCullough’s 161-38 career record includes a 42-9 mark in 2002 (she also won the PSU Open last fall) while Milo went 45-8 in 2002, pushing her career record to 161-38.