March 25, 2016
By Joanne Norell
WALTHAM, Mass. – The University of Notre Dame fencing team made up significant ground on first place Friday while adding five All-Americans to the Irish ranks as the women’s side completed competition at the NCAA Championships at the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center at Brandeis University.
The Irish gained eight points to tighten the margin with first-place Columbia during Friday’s final two rounds of pool play. Facing a 10-point deficit in the team standings, the Irish went a collective 30-18 during Rounds 4 and 5 to pull within 86-84 heading into men’s play Saturday and Sunday.
“It was a tremendous performance by all three units,” head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia said. “I absolutely loved their enthusiasm, toughness and resiliency. When the pressure rose, they did better.”
Notre Dame’s women’s foil contingent came up big Friday, with Massialas and senior Nicole McKee combining to go 13-3. Massialas finished pool play with a 20-3 mark and a +61 indicator, finishing just behind Columbia’s Jackie Dubrovich and Ohio States Eleanor Harvey (both 21-2) for the third semifinal seed.
McKee was 6-2 on the day finishing with a 14-9 record and rising from 13th to 10th place for Third Team All-America recognition.
“I cannot say enough for the women’s foilists, who won 13 out of 16 bouts [Friday] and kept us loaded,” Kvaratskhelia said.
In the semifinal, Massialas squared off with Harvey, with the two trading the first several touches to tie it at 5-5. Harvey wrested momentum, however, and outscored Massialas 10-4 over the duration of the bout to win 15-9. Without a third-place tiebreaker, the Irish freshman shares third place with Ohio State’s Alanna Goldie, but picks up First Team All-America recognition.
“She won seven out of eight bouts [during Friday’s pool play] and she truly performed at a superstar level,” Kvaratskhelia said. “We knew that we got incredible talent in her, but the stability she brought to the foil program was really astonishing.”
Both epee and sabre just missed sending representatives to the semifinal round, with the top Irish finishers in both weapons edged out by tiebreakers.
In sabre, Irish sophomore Francesca Russo was barely left out of the semifinal, despite a furious comeback performance in Friday’s final round robin bouts. Russo, who sat in 13th place after competition ended Thursday with a 7-8 record, went on to go 6-2 in Rounds 4 and 5 to rise to sixth (13-10 with a +10 indicator) in the standings. The defending national sabre champion entering the championships, Russo picked up Second Team All-America honors this season.
With one more victory, Russo would have made the final four by indicator.
Senior Catherine Lee also just missed reaching the epee semifinal, finishing in fifth as fourth-seeded Eugenia Falqui made the cut with the same +9 indicator, but held a 87-79 edge in touches scored. Lee finished the competition with a 14-9 mark and Second Team All-America honors.
Freshman Tara Hassett also garnered All-America mention in sabre, finishing in 12th place (12-11 with a -6 indicator) for a third-team nod.
Freshman Madeline Antekeier was 14th in epee, finishing with an 11-12 record.
The Irish men will commence competition Saturday with the first three rounds of pools. Foil will begin at 9:30 a.m., followed by epee at 11:30 a.m. and sabre at 2 p.m. They will fence the final two round robins on Sunday, followed by the semifinals and finals.
“We need to show up,” Kvaratskhelia said. “No matter what the scores are right now, we’re halfway through the game and we have to show up in the third quarter and really make a statement if we want to be a championship team.”
NCAA Fencing Championships
March 24-27, 2016
Hosted by Brandeis University
Foil (Through Round 5)
3. Sabrina Massialas 20-3 (+61)*
10. Nicole McKee 14-9 (+5)***
 Eleanor Harvey (OSU) def.  Sabrina Massialas (ND) 15-9
T3. Sabrina Massialas
Epee (Through Round 5)
5. Catherine Lee 14-9 (+9)**
14. Madeline Antekeier 11-12 (-1)
Sabre (Through Round 5)
6. Francesca Russo 13-10 (+10)**
12. Tara Hassett 12-11 (-6)***
1. Columbia/Barnard 86
2. Notre Dame 84
3. Princeton 82
4. Ohio State 76
5. St. John’s 74
*First Team All-American
**Second Team All-American
***Third Team All-American
Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2014 and coordinates communications efforts for the Notre Dame women’s soccer, men’s tennis, women’s tennis and fencing programs. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University and earned her master’s degree from Georgetown University in 2013.