Head coach Janusz Bednarski leads the Irish fencing program in search of its ninth NCAA Championship.

Irish Head To Columbus In Hopes Of Defending Crown At 2012 NCAA Championship

March 21, 2012

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame fencing team and its 12-member NCAA contingent are set to defend the title at the 2012 NCAA Championship, which gets underway Thursday at the French Field and St. John Arena on the campus of Ohio State University.

While four Irish fencers will be making a return trip to NCAA Championship action, eight fencers will get their first taste of the Championship this season in hopes of defending their 2011 title at the same venue in which they emerged victorious one year ago.

Arguably the strongest weapon for the Irish this season is men’s foil. Reggie Bentley (Little Rock, Ark.) returns for his second-consecutive NCAA appearance, while Enzo Castellani (Keller, Texas) makes his third career appearance after qualifying during both his freshman and sophomore campaigns.

Last season, Bentley narrowly missed out on qualifying for the individual semifinals after completing the 23-bout pool play session with a record of 16-7 and a +29 indicator. This year, the senior finished with a 38-17 record before earning a runner-up finish at the NCAA Midwest Regionals.

Castellani, meanwhile, returns to the NCAAs after arguably his most dominant season with the Irish to-date. The senior concluded the regular season with a 42-8 record before claiming the title at the Midwest Fencing Conference (MFC) Championship and earning a third-place result at the NCAA Midwest Regionals. In his first two NCAA appearances, Castellani finished eighth (’09) and tied for third (’10).

On the women’s side in foil, two newcomers travel to Columbus in Madison Zeiss (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Grace Hartman (St. Paul, Minn.). Zeiss enjoyed a dominant freshman campaign for the Irish, concluding with a 42-5 regular season mark. In postseason action, Zeiss earned gold at the MFC Championships before finishing runner-up at the NCAA Midwest Regionals.

Hartman makes her first career in what is her third year with the program. This season, Hartman concluded with a 33-9 record before finishing with a 15th-place showing at the MFC Championships and a third-place result at the NCAA Midwest Regional.

Jason Choy (Basking Ridge, N.J.) and Kevin Hassett (Beaverton, Ore.), representing men’s sabre, both make their first trip to the NCAAs this year. Choy, in his final campaign with the Irish, concluded the year with a regular season record of 29-16. He then parlayed that into a tie for third at the MFC Championship before placing fifth at the NCAA Midwest Regional.

Hassett, brother of Irish women’s sabreuse and four-time NCAA All-American Eileen Hassett, makes his first trip to the Championship after compiling a 36-15 record before going on to finish eighth at the MFC Championship and sixth at the NCAA Midwest Regional.

In women’s sabre, Lian Osier (Battle Ground, Wash.) makes her second-consecutive trip to the event for the Irish while Abigail Nichols (Concord, Mass.) makes her debut. Osier returns after finishing this season with a 33-15 record while also having finished sixth at the MFC Championship and runner-up at the NCAA Midwest Regional. Last year at NCAAs, Osier finished ninth with a record of 12-11 in pool play competition.

Nichols, meanwhile, earns her first berth to the NCAA Championship after finishing with a 31-19 regular season record. In postseason action, the junior earned fifth place at the MFC Championship before placing seventh at the NCAA Midwest Regional.

James Kaull (Washington, D.C.) and Michael Rossi (White Plains, N.Y.) represent the Irish men’s epee squad at the event. Kaull is making his third appearance at the NCAAs, having qualified in each of his previous two season with the Irish. After finishing 10th during the ’10 season, the junior placed 14th at the ’11 competition. This year, Kaull enters with a record of 45-21 on the regular season and fifth- and seventh-place showings at the MFC Championship and NCAA Midwest Regional, respectively.

Rossi earns his first bid to the NCAAs in his second season with the Irish program. This year, the sophomore ended with a 36-21 regular season record before turning in a solid postseason that saw him finish tied for third at the MFC Championship and sixth at the NCAA Midwest Regional.

On the women’s side, a pair of Irish freshman – Nicole Ameli and Ashley Severson – both earned their first career bids. Severson, a product of Franklin Lakes, N.J., concluded the regular season with a record of 37-7 before finishing second at the MFC Championship and third place at the NCAA Midwest Regional.

Ameli, meanwhile, concluded the regular season with a 39-26 record after competing in the most bouts on the year by any women’s epeeist. The Las Vegas, Nev., product got her postseason underway with a fifth-place result at the NCAA Midwest Regional to earn qualification.

The Venue

The competition will take place at Ohio State’s French Field House and St. John Arena, which is located at 460 Woody Hayes Drive in Columbus, Ohio.

The Format

The men’s and women’s Fencing Championship includes individual events in each of the six weapons (women’s foil, women’s epee, women’s sabre, men’s foil, men’s epee, men’s sabre).

Fencers will compete in a round-robin format of five-touch bouts. After the round-robin, the top four fencers will compete in semifinal 15-touch bouts, with the winners fencing to determine first and second places, and the losers being awarded a tie for third place. Absolute ties for the seeding will be broken as follows: for positions one through three, by a coin toss; for position four, by a fence-off.

An institution’s place finish in the championship will be based on points earned by each individual. A team will be awarded one point for each victory by its student-athletes for the duration of the championship.

This year, the women’s events will be fenced on Thursday and Friday, with the men following on Saturday and Sunday. Group assignments and bout order will be released on Wednesday evening for the women and Friday afternoon for the men. Thursday will feature women’s rounds 1-4, while Friday will include women’s rounds 5-7, with the six semifinal bouts following simultaneously.

Fencing To Be Broadcast

The 2012 Championship will feature a first of sorts for the sport of NCAA Fencing. ESPN3.com will be broadcasting each of the six weapon classes semifinal and final bouts, before compiling footage for an eventual one-hour recap of the entirety of the event. The women’s matches can be watched via the web at this link , while the men’s footage can be viewed at this link .

To The Max…

The Irish qualified the maximum 12 fencers for the NCAA Championship. Notre Dame has earned the right to send two fencers per weapon to the NCAA Championship for the 10th time. Notre Dame qualified 12 fencers for NCAAs from 2000-03, 2006, 2008-12.

Since the NCAA added women’s sabre to the Championship in 2000, teams sending 12 fencers to the NCAAs have won 11 of the 12 Championships contested. In 2005, Notre Dame won the title with only 11 qualifiers.

Since 2000, Notre Dame has qualified the most fencers for NCAA Championship play (153), followed closely by Penn State (150) and St. John’s (145). In that same time span, Notre Dame has qualified the maximum 52 fencers in sabre, joining only St. John’s sabre as one of only two schools to reach the maximum 52 qualifiers in a weapon group since the NCAA added women’s sabre.

The Competition

The Irish are expected to clash with a strong field for the 2012 Championship. Notre Dame is one of five teams to have qualified the maximum allotment of 12 for NCAAs. Along with Notre Dame, host Ohio State, Harvard, Princeton and St. John’s all qualified 12, while Penn State claimed 11 bids and Pennsylvania secured 10.