Axel Kiefer is one of four incoming freshmen for the Irish fencing team next fall.

Irish Ink Four to Start in 2015

Jan. 21, 2015

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s fencing programs are both renowned amongst collegiate fencing circles for attracting top-tier recruits. Continuing that tradition in his first season as head coach, Gia Kvaratskhelia announced today that Axel Kiefer (Lexington, Ky./Paul Laurence Dunbar/Bluegrass Fencing Club), Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif./The Drew School/The Massialas Foundation), Tara Hassett (Beaverton, Ore./Aloha/Oregon Fencing Alliance) and Madeline Antekeier (Houston, Texas/Mirabeau B. Lamar Senior/Alliance Fencing Academy) have all signed National Letters of Intent to enroll at the University in the fall of 2015.

“We are so excited to be welcoming Axel, Maddie, Sabrina and Tara to Notre Dame next year,” Kvaratkshelia says. “Cedric [Loiseau] and I have been observing each of them for some time now, and have been impressed with each result we’ve seen. Each of them are resilient and tough, very hardworking and very humble, and we knew everyone would fit seamlessly in to our team and bring value to our program.”

While each incoming freshman brings their own skillset to the strips, all four also have familial ties in some form to Notre Dame:

*- Kiefer, younger brother to current women’s foilist and 2012 Olympian Lee Kiefer, will continue the family tradition as a member of the men’s foil squad;

*- Hassett follows in the footsteps of older siblings and NCAA All-Americans Eileen (class of 2011) and Kevin (class of 2014) as a member of the women’s sabre team;

*- Massialas is the younger sister of 2013 NCAA men’s foil champion Alex Massialas – their father Gregory trained two-time Olympian Gerek Meinhardt, who won two men’s foil titles with the Irish;

*- Antekeier is the fourth member of her family to attend Notre Dame and the second to play sports (her uncle Rocco Martino played intramural hockey).

In addition to having a family tie-in to Notre Dame, all four signees also share a unique trait – they are all coached by a current member of the U.S. National Fencing program.

“If you look at each of our signees, [Axel] Kiefer’s coach was the national coach of the women’s foil team at the London Games; and four years prior, he was the guy for the women’s national team,” Kvaratskhelia states. “Massialas’s father, Greg, has been head coach for the men’s national team the last four years – including the 2012 Olympics. Antekeier, her coach serves as the national team coach for the women’s epee squad; and Hassett, her coach is the women’s sabre national team coach! So everyone is coming from a top-of-the-line coach. Their technique is incredibly well developed, and their knowledge of the sport superior because of this.”

Below is a brief summary of the newest additions to the Notre Dame fencing program:

Madeline Antekeier, 5-9, Epee (Houston, Texas/Mirabeau B. Lamar Senior/Alliance Fencing Academy)

The Antekeier File: On track to graduate from Mirabeau B. Lamar Senior in June of 2015 … winner of the Golden Beaker Science Award and President’s Education Award … member of school’s honor roll … competes with the Alliance Fencing Academy … biggest athletic thrill to date is winning junior team and individual cadet events at 2013 Summer Nationals competition … originally born in Ann Arbor, Mich., but now calls Houston, Texas home … hails from same area of Texas as current Irish women’s foilist Sarah Followill … only daughter of parents David and Shannon Antekeier, both of whom are doctors … has one younger brother, Aidan … fourth member of her family to attend Notre Dame … aunt Roxanne and uncle Rocco Martino both graduated in the 1970s, while cousin Daniel graduated in 2008 … uncle was a member of the University’s intramural hockey program … intends to double-major in Mandarin Chinese and International Economics at the University.

International Results: During freshman season, finished first as a member of team USA at the junior level at Junior Olympics … as a sophomore, placed eighth at the senior women’s National Championships in 2013, taking third at the Div. 1A National Championships as well … went on to place third in women’s epee (junior level) at the 2013 Junior Olympics, repeating her first-place team finish … as a junior, placed ninth at the senior women’s national championship … finished 25th at the World Cup in Dijon, France … placed 30th at the World Cup in Finland … took home the three-peat as junior team national champions … in senior season, placed ninth at July North American Cup (NAC) and claimed 12th at the Dallas NAC in senior level competitions … at Laupheim World Cup, finished 21st … placed seventh at Junior women’s Epee Nationals … with team, finished seventh at Junior World Cup in Helsinki, Finland.

Loiseau on Antekeier: “Maddie will be a great asset for our epee team – she’s one of the top two epee recruits for this year, and she’s a tough, tough fighter who works out hard on the strip, which is great for us. She will fight hard and push everyone to fight harder themselves in the process. When you have a freshman that will push her teammates like that, and who has a strong chance of being a starter, that gives people added motivation to do their best also.”

Tara Hassett, 5-7, Sabre (Portland, Ore./Aloha/Oregon Fencing Alliance)

The Hassett File: On track to graduate from Aloha in June of 2015 as both an honors student and salutatorian … began fencing at the age of 10 at Oregon Fencing Alliance … coached by U.S. women’s Olympic sabre coach Ed Korfanty … ranked in top five nationally at cadet level in 2013-14 … currently ranked in top 10 nationally at junior level … youngest of five siblings … eldest sister Maria played basketball at Gonzaga … older siblings Eileen (class of ’11) and Kevin (class of ’14) both fenced at Notre Dame, earning All-American accolades during their careers … biggest athletic thrill to date is placing second at Junior Olympics in the junior division in 2013 and finishing sixth at the Cadet World Cup in Konin, Poland the same year … hails from same area of Oregon as three-time Olympian and 2012 Opening Ceremonies U.S. flag bearer Mariel Zagunis … parents are Kevin Sr. and Ann Hassett … intends to major in business at the University.

Kvaratkshelia on Hassett: “Tara comes to us from Portland, Oregon, yet another strong fencer from that area. She is coached by Ed Korfanty, and has really blossomed within the last year. With so much success from our Portland-area sabre fencers, Tara is merely the next step in the legacy of Notre Dame and Portland sabreists.”

Axel Kiefer, 5-7, 140lbs., Foil (Lexington, Ky./Paul Laurence Dunbar/Bluegrass Fencing Club)

The Kiefer File: On track to graduate from Paul Laurence Dunbar in May of 2015 … during prep years maintained membership in the Beta Club, Spanish Honor Society and National Honor Society … completed a math, science and technology center 360-hour capstone senior research project with mentor Dr. Mark Crocker at the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research, involving the synthesis of Layered Double Hydroxide (LDH) catalysts of varying metal compositions … received recognition for outstanding achievement by Fayette County Board of Education in 2011 … earned All-Distinguished Award by Fayette County Public Schools in 2013 and 2014 … named an AP Scholar in 2013 and 2014 … comes from a long line of successful fencers … father, Steve competed at Duke, while eldest sister Alex competed at Harvard and older sister Lee is a current member of Notre Dame’s women’s foil team … hails from same area as current Notre Dame men’s foilist Hazem Khazbak … parents are Steve and Teresa Kiefer … full name is Axel Maudlin Kiefer … intends to major in pre-professional studies at the University.

International Results: During freshman year, took first place at the Cadet Summer National Championships in Reno, Nev. … finished second at the Richmond, Va. North American Cup (NAC) … clinched first at the Austin, Texas, NAC the following month at the cadet level, coming in fifth at the junior level … won first place at the Cadet European Foil Circuit in Halle, Germany … took first at the cadet-level Junior Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah … finished third at the junior-level Junior Olympics as well … as a sophomore, placed third at the Anaheim, Calif. NAC in cadet competition … won the St. Louis, Mo. NAC (another cadet-level competition) before taking third at the Louisville, Ky. Cadet-level NAC in January 2013 … finished third at the Cadet European Foil Circuit in Pisa, Italy … placed third in both cadet and junior competition at the 2013 Junior Olympics … as a junior, was crowned champion in January 2014 at the Udine, Italy, Junior World Cup … placed sixth at the Junior World Cup in Terrassa, Spain the following month … took first place at the junior level Junior Olympics in Portland, Ore. … with Team USA, placed second at the Plovdiv, Bulgaria World Championships … in senior year so far has placed fifth at the Div. I NAC in Dallas, Texas and won the World Cup with Team USA in juniors competition in Lezno, Poland.

Kvaratkshelia on Kiefer: “Axel continues the Kiefer/Khazbak/Kentucky pipeline. We have a Portland pipeline, and now we also have a Lexington pipeline! Both his sisters are NCAA Champions, and Axel certainly can achieve that for himself also. He’ll be an integral part of an outstanding men’s foil squad as soon as he sets foot on campus, and he looks to add even more to his already impressive list of international results so far.”

Sabrina Massialas, 5-10, Foil (San Francisco, Calif./The Drew School/Massialas Foundation)

The Massialas File: On track to graduate from the Drew School in May of 2015 … in addition to fencing, competed with school’s volleyball and badminton teams … during junior season with volleyball team, named NorCal Volleyball Tournament MVP and team offensive MVP … named captain junior and senior seasons, earning first team all-league honors in the process … competes with former Irish foilist Gerek Meinhardt at family club facility, the Massialas Foundation … has strong family history with the sport of fencing as father, Gregory, competed as a three-time Olympian and older brother Axel competed alongside Meinhardt at the 2012 Games … biggest athletic thrill to date remains winning the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, and winning the Juniors team competition at the 2014 World Championships with future Irish teammate Lee Kiefer … parents are Gregory Massialas and Chwan-Hui Chen … currently undecided on intended major.

Kvaratskhelia on Massialas: “Sabrina is an already-made superstar. She won the Youth Olympic Games and is a two-time runner-up for World Cadet Championships. She anchored of the team last year when the U.S. women won Junior World Championships, which shows how incredibly mature she is. She has the ability to make an immediate impact on a high level in collegiate circles as a member of our team. Sabrina is the top incoming foilist in the country, she’s racked up an incredibly high range of results for her age, and she will make a huge mark on ND fencing.”

Lizzie Mikes,

Media Services Coordinator