Mariel Zagunis - pictured during the 2006 NCAAs - joined teammate Becca Ward as the first U.S. fencers ever to reach an individual title bout at the World Championships.

Fencers Stand Third On Crowded Leaderboard, After First Day At NCAAs

March 16, 2006

HOUSTON – Defending champion Notre Dame remains in the thick of a five-team battle, following Thursday’s first day of action at the four-day NCAA Men’s and Women’s Combined Fencing Championships. The first two days of the tournament feature the women’s bouts and Penn State has claimed the early lead after winning 59 of its 84 bouts (28 each in foil, epee and sabre). Columbia is second with 52 points, followed by Notre Dame (50), St. John’s (48) and Harvard (47).

Notre Dame – in quest of its third title in the past four years – joins Penn State and Harvard as the only teams to qualify the maximum 12 fencers (six men and six women) while Columbia and St. John’s both qualified six women and five men’s fencers.

Sophomore Mariel Zagunis (11-3) ranks third in the women’s sabre competition, with nine bouts remaining in Friday’s schedule. Other Notre Dame fencers who are poised for All-America (top-12) finishes include the freshman duo of foilist Adi Nott and epeeist Madeleine Stephan (both 7th, with 9-5 records), plus junior sabreist Valerie Providenza (10th; 8-6). Sophomore foilist Melanie Bautista (13th; 7-7) and junior epeeist Amy Orlando (16th; 6-8) round out the Notre Dame contingent.

All four days of the competition are being held at the JW Marriott, with the men’s bouts set to be contested on Saturday and Sunday.


Valerie Providenza registered a key sweep of Harvard to go along with a split versus St. John’s in Thursday’s action.



Notre Dame combined to go 15-13 in bouts versus the other top contenders (9-3 vs. Harvard, 2-2 vs. Penn State, 3-5 vs. St. John’s and 1-3 vs. Columbia), with the +6 edge versus Harvard playing a key role in ND’s current three-point margin vs. the Crimson. The Irish will have the chance to make up ground on the leader Penn State, with eight bouts vs. PSU on Friday – while eight other bouts vs. Columbia could help ND close that two-point gap.

The Irish posted an 11-8 record in one-touch bouts, with most of those close wins (6) coming in epee, as expected. Notre Dame split its six bouts that extended to sudden-death overtime.

Notre Dame faced all three defending NCAA champs, with Zagunis beating her U.S. National teammate Emily Jacobson of Columbia (5-3) in a rematch of the 2005 NCAA sabre title bout. Nott added a 5-4 win over Harvard’s Emily Cross, the ’05 NCAA foil champion.

Zagunis had lost to Jacobson in four previous college bouts (including two at the ’05 NCAAs) but the 2004 gold medalist was focused to seize the victory on Thursday, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and ultimately forcing Jacobson off the strip for the winning touch (5-3).

Other bouts of note included Zagunis sweeping Harvard’s Carolyn Wright (5-0) and Alexa Weingarden (5-1) and taking wins from the SJU duo of Olga Ovtchinnikova (5-1) and Kasia Wieronski (5-1). Providenza added three wins over fencers from the top contenders, besting Wright (5-2), Alexa Weingarden (5-2) and Wieronski (5-3).

Nott also swept the Harvard fencers (5-4 vs. Cross, 5-2 vs. Chloe Stinetorf) while adding 5-2 wins over PSU’s Tamara Najm and regional rival Jessica Florendo of Northwestern (5-2). Bautista added her own win over Florendo (5-4) and her teammate Nemecek (5-0), with another top victory over Najm (4-3, in overtime).

The Bautista-Najm bout held plenty of drama, as Najm scored a touch for a 2-1 tie with 0:21 to go before Bautista answered back five seconds later. Najm then forged the 3-3 tie with 10 seconds left but Bautista scored the decisive attack in overtime. Bautista trailed SJU’s Erzsebet Garay with 10 seconds left but scored to force OT before losing early in the sudden death.

Orlando delivered her own sweep of two Harvard fencers (5-3 vs. Maria Larsson and 5-4 vs. Jasmine McGlade) and added noteworthy wins over Penn’s Holly Buechel (2-1, OT) and Duke’s Anne Kercsmar (3-2). Stephan’s impressive debut included wins over Larsson (5-1), Buechel (5-2), Kercsmar (5-4) and Ohio State’s Kaela Brendler (5-2).

Here are additional notes on Thursday’s bouts:


Mariel Zagunis registered several key wins on the first day of the NCAAs, including a 5-3 bout with Columbia’s Emily Jacobson in a rematch of the 2005 NCAA title bout.



SABRE – Columbia three-time All-American Emma Baratta and PSU’s Caitlin Thompson led the way on day-1 with 12-2 records while Zagunis (+29 in total-point indicators), Jacobson (+27) and PSU’s Sophie Hiss (+21) all are 11-3, followed by Stanford’s Eva Jellison (10-4) in 6th place … in addition to the bouts mentioned above, Zagunis also defeated Providenza (5-3), Duke’s Allison Schafer (5-0), Lauren Phillips of Rutgers (5-1), Penn’s Cassandra Partyka (5-4), Yale’s Carly Guss (5-3) and Cornell’s Alexandra Heiss (5-2) … her losses came vs. two All-Americans, Baratta (1-5) and Duke’s Ibtihaj Muhammad (3-5), plus a 5-4 defeat to UC San Diego’s Raelyn Jacobson (who is paired with Providenza and Zagunis as their “travel partner) … Zagunis went 5-1 vs. fencers from the other top contending teams … Providenza’s other wins came vs. UCSD’s Jacobson (5-3), Schafer (5-1), Phillips (5-0), Partyka (5-3) and Heiss (5-0) … Providenza now is 4-0 in college bouts vs. SJU’s Wieronski (including Thursday’s 5-3 bout) …her other losses: vs. Muhammad (3-5), Ovtchinnikova (4-5), Jacobson (3-5), Guss (4-5) and Baratta (1-5) … she was 3-3 vs. fencers from top contenders and went 2-0 in one-touch bouts … ND’s key Friday sabre bouts include showdowns with pairs from PSU and OSU, plus Stanford’s Jellison.

EPEE – Two-time defending champ Anna Garina (13-1) sits atop the standings, followed by OSU’s Brendler (10-4), PSU’s Case Szarwark (10-4), WSU’s Justyna Konczalska (10-4), UCSD’s Chelsea Ambort (10-4), Air Force’s Eliza Enyart (9-5) and Stephan (9-5) … Stephan’s other wins came vs. Orlando (5-4), Cornell’s Meghan Phair (5-2), Enyart (5-2), Duke’s Dorothy Hubbard (5-2) and Temple’s Brianna Ferrara (5-2) … Stephan went 3-1 vs. Brendler this year while her win over Duke’s Kercsmar (5-4) reversed her loss at the ’06 ND Duals (1-5) … her losses were vs. Northwestern’s Sharon Sullivan (4-5), Garina (4-5), Konczalska (1-5), Harvard’s McGlade (2-5) and Ambort (3-5) … Orlando’s other wins came vs. Phair (5-3) and Ferarra (3-2, OT) while her other losses were vs. Sullivan (0-1, OT), Konczalska (3-5), Brendler (0-5), Garina (4-5), Enyart (3-5), Ambort (3-5) and Hubbard (3-4, OT) … Orlando now is 5-0 vs. Duke’s Kercsmar in college bouts (3-0 at the NCAAs) and 3-1 vs. Penn’s Buechel … ND will face a top contender (Columbia, PSU and SJU) in all three of its epee rounds on Friday.

FOIL – Top day-1 finishes included Garay (13-1), Cross (12-2), Princeton’s Jacqueline Leahy (12-2), SJU’s Katia Larchanka (11-3), Nemecek (10-4), PSU’s Anna Donath (9-5) and Nott (9-5) … Nott’s other wins came vs. UCSD’s Jen Chun (5-1), Fullerton’s Senta Breden (5-2), WSU’s Lindsay Howard (5-1), Duke’s Marilyn Tycer (5-0) and Penn’s Abigail Emerson (5-2) … Nott now is 3-2 in bouts this year vs. her regional rival Florendo of Northwestern … her losses came vs. Bautista (3-5), Nemecek (1-5), Donath (2-5), Larchanka (3-5) and Garay (2-5) … Nott was 3-1 vs. fencers from the top contenders … Bautista’s other wins came vs. Chun (5-3), Breden (5-0) and Duke’s Tycer (5-2) … her other losses: vs. Cross (2-5), Stinetorf (3-5), Howard (1-5), Donath (0-5), Emerson (3-5) and Larchanka (2-5) … Bautista – who improved to 2-3 in recent bouts vs. Nemecek ad 2-2 vs. her Northwestern teammate Florendo … she was 1-3 vs. the contenders and 2-1 in one-touch bouts … the Irish have top foil bouts on Friday vs. Columbia and Princeton’s Leahy.