NCAA Midwest Regional Preview
A combined 24 members of the Notre Dame men’s and women’s fencing teams will take part in the 2010 NCAA Midwest Fencing Regional this weekend in Evanston, Ill. Northwestern will serve as the host of the two-day event, which will take place at the Sports and Aquatic Center.
The Midwest Regional gets underway on Saturday, March 13 when the women take to the strips. Then on Sunday, March 14, the men will close out the event. The Fighting Irish are attempting to qualify the combined maximum of 12 fencers for the NCAA Championship, which will be hosted by Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. on March 25-28.
Each team can qualify up to two men and two women per weapon for the NCAA Championship. The winner of each event at the Midwest Regional will receive and automatic bid to the NCAA Championships and the Midwest region has five bids allocated to it for the NCAA Championships in each of the six events. Fencers are nominated by the NCAA Midwest Committee, and confirmed by the NCAA National Men’s and Women’s Fencing Committee on Tuesday, March 16. Nominations are based on the pre-regional “Fencer Strength Factor” (40 percent) and Regional Placement (60 percent). Each region also nominates two fencers in each event as at-large candidates; the at-large bids go to the two fencers with the highest Fencer Strength Factor.
The competition at the Midwest Regional will feature preliminary pool rounds to reduce the field to 14 fencers, who will enter a double-elimination tournament, with the first twelve places being fenced out.
The Notre Dame men and women enter competition as the top-ranked teams in the latest United States Fencing Coaches Association (USFCA) poll. Other teams competing at the Midwest Regional qualifier include host Northwestern, Ohio State, Lawrence, Detroit, Wayne State, and Cleveland State.
Regional Roll Call
Representing Notre Dame at the NCAA Midwest Regional in women’s epee are seniors Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas) and Vanessa Rosa (El Paso, Texas) as well as sophomores Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas) and Diane Zielinski (Bernardsville, N.J.). On the men’s side, juniors Jacob Osborne (Colleyville, Texas), Greg Schoolcraft (San Jose, Calif.) and Andrew Seroff (Boulder, Colo.) will be joined by freshman James Kaull (Washinton, D.C.). Kelley Hurley will be making her fourth appearance at the Midwest Regional, having medaled in her previous three appearances. She claimed regional gold as a freshman and earned the bronze as a sophomore and junior. Courtney Hurley will be looking to defend her 2009 NCAA regional title, achieved last year with a 15-9 semifinal win over sister Kelley and a 15-10 win over teammate Ewa Nelip in the championship bout. Rosa will be making her second NCAA regional appearance, having placed 14th in 2008, as is Osborne, who placed 10th in 2009. Seroff participated in the 2008 NCAA Regional and finished seventh, while Schoolcraft finished sixth last year on his way to qualifying for the 2009 NCAA Championship. Zielinski and Kaull will be making their first career NCAA Regional appearances.
In women’s foil, the Irish will be led by junior Hayley Reese (Crestwood, Ky.), who will be making her third consecutive NCAA Regional appearance. In 2008, she took the bronze with a third place finish and followed with another third place finish in 2009. Also part of the women’s foil contingent are sophomores Darsie Malynn (Grapevine, Texas) and Radmila Sarkisova (Grand Rapids, Mich.), as well as freshman Grace Hartman (St. Paul, Minn.). Sarkisova and Malynn finished sixth and seventh, respectively, at last season’s NCAA Regional.
On the men’s side, the foil squad will be led by sophomores Enzo Castellani (Keller, Texas) and Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.). Castellani earned a bronze at last year’s regional as he finished third, while Meinhardt finished fifth. The rest of the Irish lineup will be comprised of the junior duo of Zach Schirtz (Rochester, N.Y.) and Steve Kubik (San Antonio, Texas). Schirtz and Kubik both medaled as freshmen in their only previous NCAA Regional appearances, with Schirtz taking the silver and Kubik the bronze in 2008.
The women’s sabre squad will be comprised of juniors Sarah Borrmann (Beaverton, Ore.) and Eileen Hassett (Beaverton, Ore.), sophomore Beatriz Almeida (Chappagua, N.Y.) and freshman Abigail Nichols (Concord, Mass.). Borrmann and Hassett will be making their third NCAA Regional appearances in as many seasons with the Irish. The duo finished one-two at last season’s event, with Borrmann edging Hassett in the championship bout, 15-13. In 2008, Borrmann earned the bronze while Hassett finished fifth. Almeida is making her second appearances at the regional in as many years. She finished fourth last season.
On the men’s side, juniors Barron Nydam (Rancho Sante Fe, Calif.) and Avery Zuck (Beaverton, Ore.) will once again lead Notre Dame’s men’s sabre squad. Last year, Zuck turned in a runner-up performance to earn the silver. Nydam finished fifth. In 2008, Nydam ended in third place to claim the bronze and Zuck finished seventh. Sophomore Keith Feldman (Stony Brook, N.Y.) and freshman Jason Choy (Basking Ridge, N.J.) round out the men’s sabre contingent. Feldman finished eighth at last season’s regional.
Irish Crowned MFC Chmapions
The Fighting Irish men’s and women’s fencing teams each earned outright Midwest Fencing Conference (MFC) Championship titles, enabling Notre Dame to claim the overall MFC championship for the first time since 2002 on Sunday, March 7.
Bolstered by gold medal finishes in men’s foil, men’s sabre, women’s epee and women’s sabre, the Irish finished with 660 points to edge perennial MFC rival Ohio State by 15 points, as the Buckeyes finished with 645 points. Northwestern finished third with 545 points. In addition to halting Ohio State’s overall conference championship win streak at seven years, Notre Dame claimed the men’s title for the first time since 2002 as well. The Irish women won their first MFC Championship since 2005.
Notre Dame’s first gold medal winning performance of the day was turned in by the women’s sabre squad, which entered the competition seeded second. In the final match versus Ohio State, the Irish fell in an early 2-0 hole but Nichols got Notre Dame on the board with a 5-1 win over Falencia Miller. Borrmann tied the match at 2-2 with a win over Tschomakova of OSU. Then Nichols added her second victory of the match – over Allison Miller – to stake the Irish to a 3-2 lead. Next, Hassett edged F. Miller in a crucial bout to give the Irish a 4-2 lead. After the Buckeyes won one more, Borrmann downed F. Miller, 5-3, to clinch the gold.
The Irish men’s sabre team earned Notre Dame’s second gold of the day in front of a raucous crowd inside the Joyce Center, also via a 5-3 win over the Buckeyes. In the finals, the Irish jumped out to a 2-0 lead, courtesy Nydam’s 5-2 win over Max Stearns and 5-3 win over Douville. After Ohio State rattled off three wins to take a 3-2 lead, the Irish countered with three straight wins to clinch the gold. Choy earned the first of those wins with a 5-3 victory over Douville. Zuck earned the fourth Irish victory, beating Bryan Cheney, 5-4, in a thrilling bout. Choy registered the clinching victory with a 5-2 win over Stearns.
The first-seeded Notre Dame women’s epee team earned the third Irish gold on the day, capturing the title with an impressive 5-1 victory over second-seeded Northwestern. In the final, the Irish got off a great start, jumping out to a 4-0 lead Following the lone Northwestern win, Courtney Hurley clinched the championship for the Irish by shutting out Joanna Niklinska, 5-0.
The Irish men’s foil team earned Notre Dame’s final gold of the day with a 5-2 win over Ohio State. In the finals, the Irish fell behind 1-0 before Meinhardt evened the score with a 5-2 victory over Joe Streb. Following an Ohio State victory, Meinhardt again evened up the match with a 5-2 victory over Ben Parkins. Schirtz then gave the Irish a lead they would never relinquish with an emotional 5-0 shutout against Colin Sutter. Castellani kept the momentum going, beating Streb 5-2. Meinhardt then clinched the men’s foil gold, the overall men’s title and the overall team title for the Irish with a 5-2 victory over Sutter.
Irish Strike Gold At MFC Chmapionships
A day prior to earning the Midwest Fencing Conference tema championship, the Irish dominated day one of the MFC Championships by claiming four of the six individual gold medals that were handed out.
On the women’s Kelley Hurley won the gold in women’s epee, while Reese added a women’s foil gold to her already impressive resume. On the men’s side, junior sabreist Nydam won his first MFC Championship and then sophomore foilist Meinhardt beat out several of his Irish teammates to cap off Notre Dame’s gold medal haul.
All told, the Irish won nine medals (out of a possible 24 due to third place ties in each weapon) including four golds, two silvers and three bronzes.
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.
Unbeaten And Streakin’
The Irish men posted a 33-0 regular season record and the women’s team recorded a 35-0 regular season mark in 2010 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).
After finishing the 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.
Quite A Run
Senior epeeist Kelley Hurley is capping off one of the best carrers in Irish history with quite an impressive sterch of fencing. A 2007 and 2008 First Team All-American (and 2008 NCAA Champion), Hurley finished the regular season on a on a 62-bout undefeated streak, dating back to the St. John’s Challenge (during Notre Dame’s season opening weekend swing through New York City). Hurley improved her regular season career record to 213-23, placing her 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.
On day one of the MFC Championships, Hurley tunred in a flawless performance en route to winning the women’s epee gold, pushing her personal unbeaten streak to 73 bouts. Then, on day two of the MFC Championships, Hurley notched a win versus Iowa, two wins against Michigan State and two more wins over Northwestern to help the Irish capture the women’s gold and improve her unbeaten streak to 78 bouts.