March 13, 2004

The Notre Dame men’s and women’s fencing teams face an important final step in preparing to defend their NCAA title, during Sunday’s annual Midwest Regional qualifier that is being held this year at Northwestern’s Crown Sports Pavilion. Selections for the NCAA Championship are based on two primary criteria: regional seeding (40%) and regional finish (60%). Each school can qualify a maximum of two fencers per weapon, with the NCAA field included 24 in each weapon.

The Midwest Region’s automatic NCAA spots vary by weapon, including six in women’s foil and women’s epee, five in men’s epee and men’s sabre, and four in men’s foil and women’s sabre. Notre Dame and growing rival Ohio State will be looking to qualify the maximum 12 fencers for the 2004 NCAAs (March 25-28 at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.) – but if the seeds hold, then the Irish and Buckeyes each will have 11 qualifiers. Two teams from other regions – Penn State and St. John’s – join ND and OSU as the teams most likely to contend for the ’04 NCAA title.

Notre Dame could qualify just one fencer in men’s epee while Ohio State potentially will qualify only one in women’s sabre. A handful of at-large NCAA spots also exist, thus providing one final chance for teams to qualify the maximum 12-fencer contingent (during the ’02 and ’03 seasons, Notre Dame qualified 11 fencers after the Regional before adding a 12th qualifier through the at-large process).

Here’s a look at how the Regional seedings and matchups shape up, sorted by weapon:

MEN’S EPEE – Most of the drama will come in men’s epee, where Notre Dame freshman and 7th-seeded Aaron Adjemian (23-16 regular-season record; 31.0 power ranking) will hope to vault into the Region’s fifth and final NCAA spot … to do so, he likely would have to pass OSU senior William Jones (45-14; 36.5) and freshman Christian Rivers (44-18; 34.6) … the top four seeds are solidly in the NCAA picture: ND junior Michal Sobieraj (36-3; 49.7), Wayne State freshman Marek Petraszek (33-4; 42.6), OSU’s Denis Tolkachev (57-8; 41.8) and WSU junior Wojciech Dudek (30-7; 38.5) … ND senior North Carey (18-17; 26.2) also is slated to fence in the Regional, as the No. 8 seed … Sobieraj won the 2002 Regional title and was the ’03 runner-up … Sobieraj won last week’s Midwest Fencing Conference title, defeating Petraszek in a 15-9 final .. Dudek and OSU junior Brian Gross reached the MFC semifinals (Gross did not qualify for the Regional) … other MFC finishes included Jones in 5th, Tolkachev in 6th and Rivera in 8th.

WOMEN’S EPEE – Women’s epee also could prove to be a key weapon, with fencers from four schools having a shot at the six NCAA spots … OSU senior Alexandra Shklar (44-4; 40.9) and freshman Kaela Brendler (36-5; 38.2) hold down the No. 1 and 3 seeds, with Wayne State sophomore Anna Garina (35-4; 39.9) and junior Anna Vinnikov (31-7; 35.2) the 2nd and 6th seeds … Notre Dame senior Kerry Walton (35-11; 36.5) and freshman Amy Orlando (35-13; 35.3) are situated in the No. 4 and 5 spots while Northwestern sophomore Sharon Sullivan (33-14; 34.1) could battle her way into the NCAAs … ND junior Rebecca Chimahusky (18-17; 22.3) also will fence as the No. 11 seed … Walton was 3rd at the 2002 Regional before tying for 1st in ’03 (she ended up 2nd after a fenceoff vs. Vinnikov and former ND teammate Meagan Call) … Garina and Vinnikov finished 1-2 at last week’s MFCs, with Orlando and Shklar reaching the semifinals … other MFC finishes of note included Chimahusky in 5th, Sullivan in 6th (Walton was at an international competition).

WOMEN’S FOIL – The women’s foil field includes a pair of top fencers from Notre Dame, Ohio State and Northwestern who are in line to fill the Region’s six NCAA slots … ND juniors Andrea Ament (40-4; 42.8) and Alicja Kryczalo (41-5; 42.1) are the top seeds, followed by three more juniors in OSU’s Hannah Thompson (37-0; 41.3), Northwestern’s Julia Foldi (47-4; 40.2) and OSU’s Metta Thompson (57-5; 39.3), plus NU freshman Jessica Florendo (42-6; 37.2) … Northwestern sophomore Christina Wang (28-11; 33.9) could claim an NCAA spot with a strong Regional finish while Wayne State’s Lindsey Howard (31-13; 30.3) is a longshot as the No. 8 seed, followed by ND senior Maggie Jordan (22-15; 27.4) as the 9th seed … Kryczalo won the 2002 and ’03 Midwest Regional titles while Ament was 3rd in ’02 and ’03 … Hannah Thompson edged Kryczalo in the ’04 MFC title bout (15-12), with Foldi and Ament reaching the semifinals … other MFC results of note included Florendo in 5th, Wang in 6th and Howard in 7th (Metta Thompson was a scratch from the ’04 MFCs).

MEN’S FOIL – Notre Dame and Ohio State are positioned to claim the four men’s foil spots, with OSU freshman Boaz Ellis (37-1; 49.8) the top seed, followed by ND junior Derek Snyder (32-6; 45.2) and fifth-year veteran Forest Walton (32-7; 44.4) … OSU senior Nathan Weir (47-12; 36.8) and sophomore Alexander Law (40-14; 34.4) are in a tight race for the fourth spot, with ND freshman Frank Bontempo (29-16, 32.4) the 5th seed … Walton’s impressive history at the Regional includes 3rd-place finishes in 2000 and ’01, plus ’02 runner-up … Snyder was 3rd at the 2002 Regional and 2nd in ’03 … Bontempo is coming off a runner-up MFC finish (vs. Ellis), with OSU’s Law and Richard Spicer reaching the semifinals … other MFC finishes included Walton in 5th and Weir in 6th (Snyder did not compete).

WOMEN’S SABRE – with just four NCAA spots for the Region – should provide some drama between fencers from different teams and within the same team … OSU junior Louise-Bond Williams (33-1; 50.5) is the top seed while three Notre Dame fencers are next in the seeding (the two that potentially advance to the NCAAs will be decided by the Regional results): freshmen Valerie Providenza (37-6; 40.3) and Angela Vincent (38-10; 37.6) and senior Destanie Milo (37-12; 35.1) … Northwestern freshman Mai Van Vu (21-7; 34.3) is the 7th seed (but potential 6th qualifier, due to the three ND fencers ahead of her) while several others could challenge for an NCAA spot: OSU freshman Syvenna Siebert (47-12; 33.3) and sophomore Marguerite Plekhanov (44-16; 31.5) and the Northwestern tandem of junior Lauren Van Gieson (35-15; 32.0) and sophomore Emily Pasternak (27-12; 32.0) … Milo’s career Midwest Regional finishes include 3rd in 2001, 2nd in ’02 and 4th in ’03 … Bond-Williams beat Providenza in last week’s MFC final (15-8), with Siebert and Van Gieson the semifinalists … other noteworthy finishes from the ’04 MFCs included Milo in 5th, Pasternak in 7th and Vincent in 10th.

MEN’S SABRE – Notre Dame freshmen Patrick Ghattas (28-4; 47.7) and Matthew Stearns impressively own the top seeds in men’s sabre, with OSU likely to secure two of the other three spots from some combination of freshman Jason Paul (41-7; 39.9), senior Colin Parker (45-3; 38.4) and sophomore Adam Crompton (22-0; 36.6). WSU freshman Bobby Smith (22-12; 29.5) is the No. 6 seed and likely will secure the Region’s final NCAA spot while ND senior Brian Dosal (15-9; 27.6) is the 7th seed … Crompton beat Ghattas in the MFC final (15-6) while Paul and Stearns reached the semifinals (Smith placed 7th).