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Irish Fencers Enjoying Strong Summer Results

July 3, 2005

Several members of the Notre Dame fencing program – just months removed from claiming the 2005 NCAA title – have continued to turn in top results on the national and international level, during various summer tournaments.

Sabre standout Mariel Zagunis flew from the NCAAs in Houston and days later won the 2005 Junior World Championship title, claiming the individual championship before combining with her Oregon Fencing Alliance club teammates Caitlin Thompson and Becca Ward to also win the World team title (March 23-30, in Linz, Austria).

Zagunis – who won the 2004 Olympic gold medal before beginning her Notre Dame career – overcame illness in placing 6th at a Senior World Cup event in Welkenraedt, Belgium (May 14-15) before winning the World Cup in Klagenfurt, Austria (June 4-5) and most recently reaching the title bout of the World Cup in Las Vegas (June 17-19).

Her first-place finish in Austria boosted Zagunis to 4th in the senior world rankings. She defeated fellow Notre Dame fencer and club teammate Valerie Providenza, 15-4, before a quarterfinal win over former Ohio State standout Louise Bond-Williams of England (15-12) and an easy semifinal win over Germany’s Sybil Klemm (15-5). The title bout saw Zagunis edge her club and junior national teammate Ward, 15-13.

Zagunis – who battled through illness to reach the quarterfinals of the earlier World Cup in Belgium (losing to China’s Zhao Yuanyuan) – nearly repeated her World Cup title in Las Vegas, coming from behind to take the lead before losing a narrow decision to Poland’s Aleksandra Socha in the final bout (13-15). She then combined with Ward, Thompson and Sada Jacobson to win the bronze medal in the Las Vegas women’s sabre team competition.

Providenza posted the best World Cup finish of her career in Austria, earning the No. 2 seed after the pool bouts (behind Ward) before ultimately finishing 13th. The 2003 NCAA champion (and ’04 semifinalist) bested former World Cup medalist Sandra Benad of Germany in the pool rounds (5-1) before topping England’s Rosalind Hull in the round of 32 (15-3) and 2004 Olympian Madoka Hisage of Japan in the round of 16.

The Las Vegas World Cup featured bouts in women’s sabre and women’s foil, with Providenza placing 37th (in a field of 37) while 2005 Notre Dame graduate Andrea Ament was 69th in the 83-fencer foil field.

A pre-summer North American Cup event held in Chattanooga, Tenn., featured multiple competitors with Notre Dame connections (April 15-18). Former four-time All-American Jan Viviani (a member of ND’s ’03 NCAA championship team) placed 5th out of 146 fencers in the men’s epee field while Notre Dame rising sophomore Greg Howard placed 17th. Ament took 5th in the 87-fencer women’s foil field – behind ’05 NCAA and World Junior champ Emily Cross, Doris Willette, Samantha Nemecek and Iris Zimmerman – while Providenza was 9th among 52 women’s sabre competitors.

In the women’s epee bouts at the Chattanooga N.A.C., Notre Dame ’05 graduate Kerry Walton placed 24th while junior-to-be Amy Orlando was 28th in that 52-fencer field. Rising junior Matt Stearns rounded out the ND contingent by placing 24th out of 69 men’s sabre fencers.

The current USFA national rankings feature several Notre Dame fencers, with Zagunis 2nd in the women’s sabre rankings (behind Sada Jacobson) while Providenza checks in at 8th. Ament is 5th in the women’s foil rankings, with Walton (3rd) and Orlando (13th) ranking near the top of the women’s epee rankings (Kelley Hurley and Maya Lawrence hold the 1-2 spots).

Rising junior sabre Patrick Ghattas – the ’05 NCAA runner-up who went in to place 24th at the Junior World Championships – currently stands 13th in the USFA men’s sabre rankings while Howard (36th) and junior-to-be Aaron Adjemian (57th) are included in the men’s epee rankings. Viviani holds down the No. 4 spot in the epee rankings behind his 2004 Olympic teammates Seth Kelsey, Cody Mattern and Soren Thompson.

A large contingent of Notre Dame fencers currently are in action at the USFA Summer Nationals in Sacramento, Calif. (July 1-10), with those competitors including Providenza, Orlando, Ghattas, Stearns, Howard, Ament and Viviani. Other Notre Dame fencers competing at the Summer Nationals include rising juniors Frank Bontempo (foil) and Patrick Gettings (epee), sophomore-to-be foilist Melanie Bautista and epeeist Becca Chimahusky (who is set to her return for her fifth year in ’05-’06).

Several fencers who will join the Notre Dame program in 2005-06 also are competing at the Summer Nationals, in addition to posting top results at the above events (check back to later in the summer for a complete release on the Notre Dame fencing program’s incoming class).

The fourth and final 2005 World Cup will be held July 9-10 in Vancouver while the World Championships are scheduled for Oct. 8-15 in Leipzig, Germany. Zagunis already has clinched making her fifth World Championship team with the U.S. fencing team.

Check back to for recaps of the Summer Nationals and the Vancouver World Cup, plus updated world rankings.