CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — For the first time in program history, the University of Notre Dame fencing program swept all available Atlantic Coast Conference titles, as the top-ranked Irish men won individual championships in sabre, epee and foil, and the Irish women snagged their fourth ACC team championship in five seasons Sunday at Conte Forum at Boston College.
It was the first time the Irish men and women combined for all six individual weapons titles, having previously won no more than five in a season. The men completed the sweep as freshman Malcolm Fields (sabre), senior Dylan French (epee) and sophomore Nick Itkin (foil) each topped their respective fields Sunday.
The Irish women went 3-0 on the day, defeating Boston College, North Carolina and No. 6 Duke in the round robin-style tournament.
Following the conclusion of the tournament, the ACC recognized sophomore foilist and freshman sabreuse Kara Linder as the tournament’s Most Valuable Fencers, marking the first time the Irish boast both men’s and women’s MVPs since 2017.
The Irish men sent seven individuals to direct elimination after the morning’s pool competition, including the top seed in all three weapons. Freshman Malcolm Fields earned the top slot in sabre, sophomore Nick Itkin led the field in foil and senior Dylan French came out on top in epee. Joining them were freshman Alessandro Contreras in sabre, freshman Andrew Machovec and senior Axel Kiefer in foil, and senior Dylan French in epee.
Fields and Contreras met in the sabre semifinal after Contreras had defeated teammate Jared Smith 5-0 in a fence-off for the No. 4 seed. Fields claimed the bout 15-12 to advance to his first ACC championship contest. After jumping to a 6-0 lead over North Carolina’s Matthew Garrelick, Fields battled to a 15-8 victory to become the fourth Irish freshman to win a championship on the weekend.
In the men’s epee final, top-seeded French met No. 2 seed Ewart to guarantee the Irish the top two spots. Ewart led 10-6 after one period, but French rallied to pull tie it at 12 before earning the 15-13 victory. It was the second ACC Championship of the senior’s career, who also won as a freshman in 2016.
The men’s foil championship featured two former ACC Champions in 2018 winner Itkin and 2016 champion Kiefer after the former defeated Duke’s Eoin Gronninsater 15-8 in the semifinal and the latter turned away teammate Machovec 15-12. Despite going back and forth to begin the bout, Itkin pulled away in the final to win 15-5 to claim his second straight conference crown.
In his second-place finish, Kiefer earned All-ACC honors for the third time in his career.
The Irish also snared bronze medals in sabre and foil, with Contreras defeating Boston College’s Spencer Kuldell 15-10 and Machovec downing Gronninsater 15-8.
The Irish women opened the team event with a 24-3 victory over Boston College, with the foil squad sweeping the Eagles 9-0 and epee going 8-1 in the match. Five Irish fencers went 3-0 — Sabrina Massialas, Stefani Deschner and Morgan Partridge in foil, and Amanda Sirico and Dasha Yefremenko in epee.
The Irish defeated North Carolina 24-3 in round 2, again sweeping foil and dropping just one in epee and two in sabre. Amita Berthier, yesterday’s women’s foil champion, was 3-0 against the Tar Heels, as was Massialas, Partridge, Yefremenko and senior sabreuse Tara Hassett.
The Duke match served as the de facto championship with both teams entering the round with 2-0 records and the match seesawed as sabre and epee competed first while foil waited for a strip not compromised by the condensation caused by the ice rink underneath the playing surface. Duke briefly held a 5-4 lead, between sabre and epee outcomes, but the Irish rattled off 17 straight wins en route to the title.
Sabre was the tightly contested weapon, but the Irish wrapped with a 5-4 edge thanks to a 3-0 effort from Kara Linder and and a 2-1 mark by Hassett. Meanwhile, the slower-paced epee competition saw the Irish pull away en route to a 8-1 performance as Yefremenko (9-0) and Sirico (8-0) finished the day unblemished. In fact, it was Sirico with the winning touch, clinching the championship at 14-5.
The foil squad shut the door, finishing the day without a loss as Berthier, Deschner and Partridge each snared three wins in the match.
What They Said
Malcolm Fields on the freshman experience…
“It’s been great. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect (coming in), but on my recruiting trip (head coach) Gia (Kvaratskhelia) and (assistant sabre coach Aleks Ochocki) were great to me and I knew I wanted to be here because it was like a family and when I got here it was just like what I expected. Everybody works really well together. Being a freshman I’m obviously less experienced than my older teammates, but when I remember that and take advice from everybody, it’s really helped me succeed.”
Dylan French on taking energy from Saturday’s team competition…
“I was really happy yesterday to win the team event because we lost it last year, and it felt good to get it back. I felt like we were all pretty loose today because we weren’t all stressed out about losing (the team event). You know, when you’re in the finals with a teammate (sophomore Stephen Ewart), it’s a different kind of fencing because you want to win, but it’s more relaxed.”
Nick Itkin on the future…
“We’re definitely moving in the right direction. Our freshman class is incredible, and I believe we should be good for a while after this freshman class. It’s a good sign to have such good freshmen and to have seniors look down and see the freshmen killing it right now (so they know they’re leaving a strong program behind). It’s incredible.”
ACC Fencing Championships
February 23-24, 2019
Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Men’s Individual Championships
 Malcolm Fields (ND) def.  Alessandro Contreras (ND) 15-12
 Malcolm Fields (ND) def.  Matthew Garrelick (UNC) 15-8
 Alessandro Contreras (ND) def.  Spencer Kuldell (BC) 15-10
Final Sabre Standings
1. Malcolm Fields (ND)
2. Matthew Garrelick (UNC)
3. Alessandro Contreras (ND)
 Nick Itkin (ND) def.  Eoin Gronninsater (DU) 15-8
 Axel Kiefer (ND) def.  Andrew Machovec (ND) 15-12
 Nick Itkin (ND) def.  Axel Kiefer (ND) 15-5
 Andrew Machovec (ND) def.  Eoin Gronninsater (DU) 15-8
Final Foil Standings
1. Nick Itkin (ND)
2. Axel Kiefer (ND)
3. Andrew Machovec (ND)
 Dylan French (ND) def.  Joseph Taylor (UNC) 15-14
 Stephen Ewart (ND) def.  Thomas Park (BC) 15-10
 Dylan French (ND) vs.  Stephen Ewart (ND)
Final Epee Standings
1. Dylan French (ND)
2. Stephen Ewart (ND)
3. Joseph Taylor (UNC)
*Top two earn All-ACC honors
Women’s Team Championship
No. 1 Notre Dame 23, Boston College 4
Epee (8-1): Dasha Yefremenko 3-0, Amanda Sirico 3-0, Molly Hudson 2-1
Foil (9-0): Stefani Deschner 3-0, Morgan Partridge 3-0, Sabrina Massialas 3-0
Sabre (6-3): Natalie Disher 2-1, Tara Hassett 2-1, Regina O’Brien 2-1
No. 1 Notre Dame 23, North Carolina 4
Epee (8-1): Yefremenko 3-0, Julia Barry 2-1, Sirico 2-0, Hudson 1-0
Foil (9-0): Amita Berthier 3-0, Massialas 3-0, Partridge 3-0
Sabre (7-2): Hassett 3-0, Disher 2-0, Kara Linder 1-0, O’Brien 1-2
No. 1 Notre Dame 22, No. 6 Duke 5
Epee (8-1): Sirico 3-0, Yefremenko 3-0, Barry 1-1, Hudson 1-0
Foil (9-0): Berthier 3-0, Deschner 3-0, Partridge 3-0
Sabre (5-4): Linder 3-0, Hassett 2-1, Disher 0-2, O’Brien 0-1
The Irish will return to action when they host the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships on March 9 at the Castellan Family Fencing Center. Then, the Irish will look to qualify the maximum 12 fencers for the 2019 National Collegiate Fencing Championships at Cleveland State.
— ND —