2010 NCAA champion Gerek Meinhardt won a silver medal at last weekend's Venice Foil Grand Prix in Italy

Irish In Search Of Ninth National Championship This Weekend In San Antonio

March 19, 2013

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame fencing team looks to win the ninth national championship in program history when it travels to the 2013 NCAA Fencing Championship March 21-24 at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, Texas.

Men’s weapon draws will be contested Thursday and Friday inside Freeman Coliseum, with the foil participants opening each session at 9:30 a.m. (CT). The women’s portion of the championship will be held Saturday and Sunday, with foil bouts beginning each day at 9:30 a.m.

Fencers will compete in a round robin format of five-touch bouts to begin the championship draws. 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 seeding are broken by a coin toss for positions one through three, and via fence-off for fourth place.

The cumulative number of points earned by participating fencers determines an institution’s finish at the NCAA Championship. A team will be awarded one point for each victory by its student-athletes for the duration of the championship.

The eight-time national champion Irish won the NCAA title in the men’s division in 1977, 1978 and 1986, and claimed the women’s crown in 1987. Since the NCAA began recognizing combined champions during the 1990 season, Notre Dame has won four national titles (1994, 2003, 2005 and 2011).

Each weapon classification will have two Notre Dame representatives, giving the Irish the maximum 12 entries into NCAA competition for the sixth consecutive season. Notre Dame has not finished outside of the top five at the event since 1993.

Senior women’s epeeists Courtney Hurley and Ewa Nelip will each make their fourth career appearances at the NCAA Championship in San Antonio. Hurley is 60-10 in her previous three national championship tournaments, winning the overall epee title in 2011 after finishing 19-4 in round robin play. Hurley earned bronze medal results in the epee draw in 2009 and 2010. Nelip claimed third-place honors in 2008 and 2009 at the NCAA bouts, posting a combined 33-13 round robin record (+59 indicator).

Senior sabreuse Lian Osier and sophomore epeeist Madison Zeiss are the other returning NCAA competitors representing the No. 1 ranked Notre Dame women’s team. Osier logged a 25-20 mark at the past two NCAA Championship matches, finishing in a career-best eighth place in 2012. Zeiss will make her second straight trip to the NCAAs after finishing in eighth place as a freshman last season, posting a 15-8 record and +25 indicator.

A pair of freshmen round out the lineup for the Irish women’s squad, as foilist Lee Kiefer and sabreuse Johanna Thill are scheduled to make their first career appearances at the NCAA Championship. Kiefer was 32-6 during the regular season, and qualified for the NCAA bouts by winning the women’s foil draw at the NCAA Midwest Regional inside the Castellan Family Fencing Center March 9. Thill won the women’s sabre overall title at the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships at the Castellan Family Fencing Center (March 2), and followed up that performance with a fifth-place result at the NCAA Midwest Regional one week later.

The six Notre Dame men’s NCAA Championship entries are headlined by 2010 foil champion Gerek Meinhardt and 2011 foil gold medalist Ariel DeSmet. Meinhardt returns to the NCAA bouts for the first time since winning the men’s foil draw as a sophomore three seasons ago. Meinhardt qualified for the NCAA matches after claiming the top spot at the NCAA Midwest Regional March 10, and is coming off an impressive silver medal performance at the Venice Foil Grand Prix in Italy March 17. Making his second career bid for an individual national championship, DeSmet placed second at the NCAA Midwest Regional after forcing a fence-off with Meinhardt for the title.

Juniors Kevin Hassett and Michael Rossi each return to the NCAA Championship for the second consecutive season. Hassett, who earned a third-place result in men’s sabre at the NCAA Midwest Regional, was seventh in the weapon at the 2012 NCAAs. Rossi added a bronze finish of his own in the epee at the Midwest Regional on March 10.

Freshmen John Hallsten and Garrett McGrath each look to make a mark in their first-ever NCAA Championship bouts. Hallsten was the men’s sabre runner-up at the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships March 2, and won the overall sabre draw one week later at the NCAA Midwest Regional to punch his ticket to San Antonio. McGrath navigated through the direct elimination round of the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships unscathed to claim the men’s epee title, and ultimately qualified for the NCAA bouts with a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Midwest Regional.