Ariel DeSmet

Irish Fencers Rev Up For Midwest Fencing Conference Championships

Feb. 27, 2014

Travis Bowman –

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame’s fencing team is set to compete in and host the Midwest Fencing Conference (MFC) Championships, starting Saturday, March 1 and concluding Sunday, March 2. This will be the Irish’s last year in the MFC before they move to the Atlantic Coast Conference next year, and they couldn’t be more pleased to be hosting their final Championship in the conference.

“Obviously we would like to finish this season by winning this competition,” head coach Janusz Bednarski states. “We are going to a new conference and would like to make that move as champion of this conference. We know that it will be hard to do, but this is added motivation for everybody competing.”

The Irish are looking to improve on their stellar season so far and will use their weapon squads’ depth to their advantage. For starters, epee coach Cedric Loiseau will turn to a pair of sophomores in Garrett McGrath and Catherine Lee to provide boosts for the Irish this weekend. McGrath is the reigning MFC Epee Champion from 2013 and earned first team All-MFC accolades. Lee has been progressing in her own right throughout the 2014 season, and is on her way to becoming a great epeeist.

“McGrath and Lee will be two young athletes that we will look at closely this weekend. We also have a very strong backup defense,” Bednarski says regarding his fencers.

Part of that defense includes starting starting sabreurs Johanna Thill and John Hallsten, the reigning MFC Sabre Champions in their weapons’ classes. Both Thill and Hallsten went on to compete in the NCAA Championships last year, with Thill earning All-American status.

Not to be remiss, the Irish’s strongest weapon class, foil, will also have a pair of former champions, with Madison Zeiss and Ariel DeSmet competing as well. Zeiss clinched the weapon title in 2012 as a freshman, while DeSmet is one of three returning MFC Champions from 2013.

Notre Dame’s depth, experience and mix of younger, talented fencers have provided a solid foundation for this year’s squad. The goal for the Irish this weekend is to win and build confidence that can be used to their advantage heading into the NCAA Midwest Regionals the following weekend.

“We are excited to be hosting this event, and want to encourage our fans and home crowd to come out in support of our fencers and cheer,” operations director Alex Buell says.

The Irish will be raring to go this weekend in their last and final MFC Championship. Weapons check in is slated to start Saturday at 7 a.m. For the official event program, click here.