Lee Kiefer, one of five U.S. Olympians with ties to the Notre Dame program, was also one of 13 competitors in national competitions in the months of January and February.

Irish Fencing Program Well Represented On Global Stage

Feb. 17, 2014

Lizzie Mikes, Media Services Coordinator –

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame’s fencing program has a strong history of producing prolific combatants in international competitions, and based on results from worldwide competitions held just in January and February alone, it’s no small wonder how or why they maintain this reputation.

Throughout a bitter winter, no less than 13 fencers with ties to Notre Dame competed in and placed at numerous events. 12 of the 13 represented the United States, with freshman men’s foilist Kristjan Archer competing for his home country Great Britain in the Paris Foil World Cup the weekend of January 18-20th in Paris, France.

While Archer finished in 95th place, his Notre Dame teammate and men’s squad captain Gerek Meinhardt finished third at the French event both as an individual and as a member of Team USA (read full article here). He claimed the No. 1 ranking in the process, becoming the first American men’s foilist in history to earn the top spot.

That same weekend, sister duo Courtney and Kelley Hurley anchored the U.S. women’s epee team to a fourth-place finish at the Doha World Cup in Qatar, their best finish since earning bronze at the 2012 London Olympics. The Hurleys were joined for the first time by class of 2018 Notre Dame signee Amanda Sirico (Bowie, Md.). Courtney finished in 20th place and Kelley, 72nd, while Sirico claimed 74th.

Two weeks later, another London Olympian took to the stage as women’s foilist and sophomore standout Lee Kiefer finished 35th at the Gdansk World Cup in Gdansk, Poland. With the No. 11 seed, she was exempt from pool play, and lost in the round of 64 to Benedetta Durando (ITA), 15-5. Junior Madison Zeiss also fought in Gdansk, but was unable to advance out of the pool play portion of the tournament, claiming an 85th-place finish.

Women’s Sabreuse Mariel Zagunis

On Feb. 3rd, women’s sabreuse Mariel Zagunis – perhaps the most decorated Irish alum in international competition – earned a bronze medal at the Orleans Saber Grand Prix in Orleans, France. Zagunis, who had earned the No. 2 seed due to her domination at 2013 World Cup events, proved her expertise and experience early on with wins against Olena Kravatska (UKR), Daria Schneider (New York, N.Y.) and Anna Illarionova (RUS) to advance into the quarterfinals where she faced Cecilia Berder (FRA).

Zagunis went up early before Berdercame back strong, but it would be Zagunis who hung on to advance to the semifinals, 15-13. Sadly, 2012 Olympic Champion Jiyeon Kim (KOR) proved no match for Zagunis, who lost 15-11.

The weekend of Feb. 8-9th proved a busy one for U.S. combatants, as the women’s sabre team traveled to Dakar, Senegal; the women’s epee team competed in Leipzig, Germany; and the women’s foil team traveled to Budapest, Hungary, for World Cup events.

Zagunis finished just out of the top 16 at the Dakar Senior World Cup for the first time in three years, as she claimed 17th place. Class of 2018 signee Francesca Russo also competed in Dakar, finishing 64th after a tough 15-8 loss to reigning senior world champion Olga Kharlan (UKR).

The Hurley sisters were once again joined by Sirico in Leipzig, and as a team they finished in sixth place with the help of former National Champion Natalie Vie (Phoenix, Ariz.). The U.S. women opened fire with a 45-30 win over Spain in the round of 32 before advancing into the quarterfinals with a 44-41 upset of 2012 Olympic silver medalists Korea. China out-touched the Americans 45-23 in the quarterfinals, but Team USA held on in the fifth-through-eighth place table to beat Ukraine 45-35 before being out-dueled by Italy, 26-25.

In individual competition, Courtney placed 27th, while Kelley finished 98th and Sirico finished in 134th place.

Slightly less than 500 miles away Kiefer, who was once again exempt from pool play, opened the day with a 14-10 win against Anne Knauer (GER) in the Budapest Foil World Cup. She went on to beat Anastasia Ivanova (RUS) 15-12 in the tableau of 32, and edged out Carolina Erba (ITA) 15-14 in the round of 16. Kiefer was nominally out-touched by eventual gold medalist Valentina Cipriani (ITA), 11-10 in the quarterfinals. She finished in seventh place.

In the team portion in Budapest, Team USA put on a strong performance, finishing fifth despite only having three fencers competing. It was Kiefer who anchored her teammates in a 39-33 win over Japan in the round of 16, but Russia out-touched the young Americans, 45-35. Kiefer and her cohorts continued to duel and impress the crowds gather regardless, as they sported back-to-back wins against host country Hungary (43-42) and Germany (41-34).

Men’s Epeeists Garrett McGrath

A trio of men’s epeeists – freshmen Conrad Sutter and Arthur Le Meur, and 2013 NCAA Championship participant Garrett McGrath – all appeared at the Junior Olympics competition in Portland, Ore. this past weekend. Sutter finished in 22nd place in the Junior Men’s Epee event, while Le Meur finished in 23rd. McGrath, for his part, valiantly fought his way in to the gold medal bout, where he lost to champion Ace Eldeib (Burke, Va.) 15-10, despite being tied with him at eight apiece as time expired in the first period.

Le Meur, McGrath and Sutter all entered direct elimination sporting a 5-1 mark in pool play. Sutter, with the No. 18 seed, bested Justin Swicegood 15-9 and James Salem 15-8 before being out-touched by Eldeib, 15-11. Le Meur, with the No. 25 seed, out-touched Austin Spickes 15-11 and Matthew Comes 15-6 before being ousted by Nicholas Campbell-Kruger, 15-13.

McGrath earned the highest seed with the No. 16 spot, and earned fairly lopsided wins over Zachary Landzerg, 15-8; Bryn Hammarberg, 15-3; and Jake Raynis, 15-12. Entering the round of 16, he out-dueled Zach Kravitz 15-4 and squared off against Campbell-Kruger, emerging victorious, 15-14. He won his semifinal bout against Dante Centeno, 15-11.

Changing weapons classes, sophomore John Hallsten finished eighth in Junior Men’s Sabre. Hallsten earned a 3-3 mark in pool play, and entered direct elimination with the No. 70 seed, where he went on a scoring streak and won all of his bouts heading into the table of eight, where he was upset by Karol Metryka, 15-11.

With the 2014 season quickly coming to a close, Notre Dame is eagerly anticipating hosting the 2014 Midwest Fencing Conference Championships March 1-2, before traveling to Detroit, Mich. the weekend of March 8th for the NCAA Midwest Regional. For all things Irish, check back frequently on und.com/fencing.