March 22, 2016

Note: This is the second in a series of four profiles of Notre Dame’s young fencing contingent that will be competing this weekend at the NCAA Championships in Waltham, Massachusetts.

By Jane Horvat ’18

Tara Hassett is the youngest of five siblings, two of whom (Eileen ’11 and Kevin ’14) fenced at the University of Notre Dame. The freshman sabreuse hails from Portland, Oregon, and currently resides in Pasquerilla East Hall with plans to pursue a major in finance in the Mendoza College of Business. Hassett will be competing at the NCAA Championships as one of 12 Notre Dame fencers who have qualified to participate.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would you be?

I would probably be a fencing Olympian, probably someone like Olga Kharlan. She’s very good. Seeing her routines and her mindset would be amazing.

Which Disney Princess or character is your favorite?

Mulan because she is very independent. She does what she wants to do, and she does it fearlessly. I’d also say Rapunzel because she is very naive, but she trusts the people around her, and there is something very admirable about that.

Tara.Hassett, left, competes in the ACC women’s sabre final on February 28.

Would you rather have ketchup be the only condiment you can use, or never be able to use ketchup again?

I’d give up ketchup, no question. There are so many other condiments. I mean there’s honey mustard, regular mustard, ranch – ranch is so great – I mean I could even make my own. It’s a hard choice but give up ketchup.

What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?

Cow tongue. It was really good.

How did you first start fencing?

It’s actually kind of a funny story. My sister Eileen had a crush on a boy in her class, and his sister was the Olympic gold medalist in fencing. Because of this, she decided she wanted to try [fencing], so my parents bought her instrument from an auction. Actually, the day she walked into her first practice they announced that [former Notre Dame fencer] Mariel Zagunis won the gold medal. Anyway, my sister loved it. Later, my brother tried it. He didn’t like it at first, but he grew to like it. Eventually I tried it, and I hated it at first. It was very different than anything else I had tried, so I hated it for probably six or seven months, but I stuck with it because my sister loved it. My sister ended up going here for school, and I knew that was a pretty cool thing so I stuck with it, and then one day I just fell in love with it.

Did having older sibling fence at Notre Dame affect your decision to fence here, and how, if at all, has it impacted your fencing experience at the University?

Absolutely, it has impacted my decision to go here. My siblings have told me how much of a family it is here, and they went to visit other schools where it just wasn’t the same. They could tell the difference between here and other schools that no doubt have awesome programs, but they just didn’t feel at home anywhere else. Hearing that, I came here with the mentality that this could be my home. So, that helped me make my decision. I didn’t visit any other schools. I came here and I fell in love, and that was it.

Do you have any rituals or routines when you compete?

I listen to the same two songs before every competition. When I was traveling to national competitions with my sister, we started listening to “Junk of the Heart” by The Kooks and “Son of a Gun” by Oh Land. It has always made me feel ready for a tournament. My sister was a big influence of mine for fencing, and eventually when she went off to college she couldn’t travel with me anymore. So I would always listen to those songs and feel prepared because all the things she had said to me at previous tournaments would come back to me and resonate in my mind before competition.

What was your biggest fencing accomplishment prior to collegiate fencing?

Placing top 64 at a Senior World Cup in December of 2014. It was a tournament that I didn’t think I would do very well in because it was a Senior World Cup, and there were so many great fencers. So I went in with a very relaxed attitude, and I ended up going 6-0 in my pools and made it to the second day. I lost the next day, but seeing that I could do that and compete at that level was pretty great.

What has been the best part of your season so far?

The first tournament for the team was at Penn, and I was nervous but also excited to experience the competition aspect of college fencing, and we got there and everyone was so supportive. Having the family aspect of a team and having teammates to cheer for you was so different because at national tournaments it was always a very “each man for himself” mentality. So having everyone want you to do well was such a great start to my season.

What has being selected to participate in the NCAA championships mean to you?

It means a lot of different things to me. First, I get to represent my team and school. Second, it means that we have all worked so hard and pushed each other to get better. It means we have had a lot of accomplishments this season, and it means that I’ve gotten better alongside my teammates. It shows that we’ve all improved a lot and are going to come together and try to win this.

What are your goals for the upcoming championships?

I have two goals. One would be to help my team win by winning as many five-touch bouts as possible in the first two days out of the 23 bouts. The second goal, on the second day, after we have all the bouts that we need to win, would be to make top four or top two in NCAA [individual] championships.