March 4, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Fighting Irish men’s and women’s fencing teams are set to get the postseason underway by playing host to the Midwest Fencing Conference (MFC) Championships this weekend. On Saturday, March 6 the individual weapon championships will be contested. Then on Sunday, March 7, the team championships for each weapon will be decided. Fencing is scheduled to begin at 8:00 am on both days inside Notre Dame’s Joyce Center.
For all the latest updates of the individual championships and the team competitions, check back with UND.com and the Midwest Fencing Conference Championship Central page at: http://www.und.com/sports/c-fenc/spec-rel/2010-midwest-conference-champ.html
Saturday, March 6
8:00 a.m. – Men’s epee and women’s foil pools begin. 9:30 a.m. – Women’s sabre pools begin; men’s epee and women’s foil direct elimination begin when ready. 10:45 a.m. – Approximate start time for women’s sabre direct elimination. 12:30 p.m. – Approximate start time for men’s epee, women’s foil, and women’s sabre finals. 1:00 p.m. – Women’s epee and men’s foil pools begin. 2:30 p.m. – Men’s sabre pools begin; women’s epee and men’s foil direct elimination begin when ready. 3:45 p.m. – Approximate start time for men’s sabre direct elimination. 5:30 p.m. – Approximate start time for women’s epee, men’s foil and men’s sabre finals.
Sunday, March 7
8:00 a.m. – Start time for men’s epee, women’s foil, and women’s sabre. 11:30 p.m. – Approximate start time for men’s epee, women’s foil and women’s sabre finals. 12:00 noon – Start time for women’s epee, men’s foil and men’s sabre. 3:30 p.m. – Approximate time for women’s epee, men’s foil and men’s sabre finals. 4:30 p.m. – Approximate start time of the awards ceremony (individual medals will be handed out first, followed by the team trophies).
Scouting The Irish
With the men and women both ranked first overall, the Notre Dame fencing teams are ready to get postseason play underway, beginning with the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships.
The Irish men posted a 33-0 regular season record and the women’s team recorded a 35-0 regular season mark as the teams combined for an undefeated regular season for the first time in 19 years and just the fourth time overall (having previously done so in 1986, 1987 and 1991). Arguably, Notre Dame’s best wins came on Jan. 24 against then top-ranked Penn State at the St. John’s Challenge when the men downed the Nittany Lions 16-11 and the women edged Penn State 14-13. A day prior to the Penn State wins, each of Notre Dame’s teams downed perennial power and MFC rival Ohio State. The men beat the Buckeyes 16-11, and the women earned a narrow 14-13 win. At the Northwestern Duals, the men knocked-off the Buckeyes by an identical 16-11 margin and the women also recorded a 16-11 win over OSU.
On an individual level, senior epeeist Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas) concluded her final regular season with the Irish on a 62-bout undefeated streak, which dates back to the St. John’s Challenge. Hurley improved her career record to 213-23, placing her in third on Notre Dame’s all-time regular season wins list for female epeeists, becoming just the third epeeist (and 12th fencer overall) to crack the 200-career regular season wins plateau in the storied history of the women’s fencing program at Notre Dame.
Additional leaders of the women’s team this season have included epeeist Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas) and sabre stalwart Sarah Borrmann (Beaverton, Ore.). Courtney Hurley posted a regular season record of 59-6, bringing her two-year win total to 109 wins against just 11 losses. She also claimed four Junior World Cup gold medal finishes since November 1, 2009 so she should be primed for the direct elimination bouts that make up postseason play. Borrmann turned in a 43-11 regular season mark to push her career record to 156-26, which is good for fourth place on the all-time Notre Dame women’s sabre wins list. She will be looking to continue building towards the form that saw her capture the 2008 NCAA women’s sabre championship.
The men have been paced by a deep group of foilists including Reggie Bentley (Little Rock, Ark.), Enzo Castellani (Keller, Texas), Steve Kubik (San Antonio, Texas), Gerek Meinhardt (San Fransisco, Calif.) and Zach Schirtz (Rochester, N.Y.). Bentley posted a 33-8 record this season, while Castellani went 38-6. Kubik finished with a 35-7 mark, Meinhardt a 31-3 record and Shirtz a 39-9 record.
With their foil win totals, juniors Kubik and Shirtz each eclipsed the 100-win plateau. Shirtz and Kubik were joined in the 100-career win club by classmate Avery Zuck (Beaverton, Ore.), who posted a 34-7 record in sabre this season to push his career record to 101-23.
Two freshmen also have helped pace the Irish men this season. James Kaull (Washington, D.C.) has proved a vital part of the epee squad by posting a 49-13 record, an epee win total bested only by junior Greg Schoolcraft (San Jose, Calif.) – who notched 58 wins on the season. Joining Kaull as an impact freshman, sabreist Jason Choy (Basking Ridge, N.J.) notched 25 wins.
We’re Number One
The Notre Dame men’s and women’s fencing teams took over the No. 1 positions in the United States Fencing Coaches Association (USFCA) poll on Feb. 17, becoming the first Notre Dame teams to earn national number one rankings during the 2009-10 academic year. The poll was the second of three polls the USFCA will release during the 2010 fencing season, with the final poll to appear in March after the NCAA Regional Qualifiers.
The teams are ranked first overall for the first time since the final poll of the 2009 season. With their newfound top rankings, at least one of the Irish fencing teams has now held sole possession of the top spot in nine of the past ten seasons (2001-06, 2008-10). Furthermore, the Notre Dame women now have been ranked number one in six of the past seven years (all but ’07).
As has become the custom on the Notre Dame campus, the traditional lighted #1 sign will reappear atop Grace Hall, and a #1 flag will now fly outside the Irish athletic department offices at the Joyce Center.
After finishing the 2010 season unbeaten, the men and women are in the midst of some impressive streaks. Dating back to 2008, the men have not lost a regular season match in their last 77 contests, which is the fourth longest streak in program history (third best stretch was 90 consecutive wins from 2000-04). Dating back to last season, the women have now won 59 consecutive regular-season matches, which is the second longest unbeaten stretch in program history (best stretch is 75 consecutive wins from 1993-96). 2010 marked the men’s 21st undefeated season (dating back to 1934), while the women turned in their sixth unbeaten season since 1977.
2009 MFC Championship Recap
Notre Dame claimed three individual gold medals at the 11th annual Midwest Fencing Conference Championships last season. The championship performances were turned in by Karol Kostka ’09, Borrmann and Courtney Hurley.
Borrmann won the first individual title as she knocked off Ohio State’s Margarita Tschomakova in the final, 15-8. Borrmann became just the second Notre Dame women’s sabreist to take home the individual title at the MFC Championships, and the first since Valerie Providenza did so in 2005. Notre Dame’s next gold medal finish was turned in by Kostka, who, trailing by three touches when his opponent only needed to land one, rallied to take the men’s epee championship. Hurley sealed the third individual title of the day for the Irish when she defeated Northwestern’s Joanna Niklinska by a score of 15-8 in the championship bout.
A day later, Notre Dame claimed team titles in men’s sabre and women’s epee. In men’s sabre, the Irish rolled to the title by losing only one bout all day. The women’s epee squad claimed Notre Dame’s second title of the day with a 5-2 win against Northwestern in the championship match.
The Irish also advanced to the championship bout in the other four categories. For the weekend, Notre Dame finished in second place with 1,290 points, while the Buckeyes of Ohio State claimed their fourth combined conference title in a row as they finished with 1,310 points to edge the Irish by 20 points.
Notes On The Opposition
The Ohio State men’s team enters the weekend ranked third in the nation, while the OSU women’s team is ranked seventh. The Northwestern women should also provide stiff competition for the Irish and Buckeyes, as they enter the weekend ranked third. The Wayne State men are also receiving votes in the latest poll.
On an individual level, the MFCC field is slated to feature many of the nation’s elite fencers. For starters, 11 former All-Americans are featured on the 2010 Notre Dame roster, led by 2008 NCAA women’s sabre champion Borrmann and 2008 women’s epee NCAA Champion Kelley Hurley. Hurley is also veteran of the Olympic Games, having fenced for team USA at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Sophomore foilist Meinhardt joined Hurley and Team USA at the Beijing Games. He also turned an NCAA runner-up performance in men’s foil as a freshman. Additional Irish standouts include 2009 NCAA foil runner up and First Team All-American Hayley Reese (Crestwood, Ky.) and 2009 men’s sabre All-Americans Zuck and Barron Nydam (Ranco Sante Fe, Calif.)
Other standouts from opposing teams expected to participate this weekend include Wayne State’s Slava Zingerman, a three-time men’s epee defending NCAA champion. The men’s epee field will also include Ohio State’s Igor Tolkachev, who finished 11th at the 2009 NCAA Championships. Tolkachev’s teammate Collin Sutter, a 2009 All-American by virtue of his fifth place showing at the NCAA Championships, will be part of a competitive men’s foil field.
On the women’s side, Northwestern is sending a talented group of epeeists led by sisters Christa and Kayley French. Christa finished seventh at the 2009 NCAA Championships, while Kayley finished 20th. Ohio State’s Oksana Dmytruk (tied for third at the 2009 NCAAs) and Northwestern’s Lindsay Knauer (18th) will be looking to make noise in the women’s foil competition.
But this weekend’s fiercest battle may be contested on the women’s sabre strips where five of the top 19 finishers from the 2009 NCAA Championships could meet. In addition to Notre Dame’s Borrmann (12th) and 2009 sixth-place finisher Eileen Hassett (Beaverton, Ore.), the field also includes the Ohio State’s duo of Margarita Tschomakova (ninth) and Falencia Miller (10th) as well as Northwestern’s Whitney White (19th).