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Irish Surge To Lead At NCAA Fencing, With Top Four Teams Separated By Six Points (Day One Recap)

March 22, 2003


The Notre Dame fencing team once again is in position to make a run at the national title, as the Irish will head into Sunday’s final bouts atop a tight-four team race. Notre Dame won 108 of its 168 bouts in Saturday’s action to claim a three-point edge over St. John’s (105), with defending champion Penn State (103) and upstart Penn State (102) within striking distance.

Sunday promises to provide a multiple-team scramble for the title, with each fencer completing nine more bouts. The men’s bouts (in three rounds of three bouts) begin Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m., followed by the women’s bouts at 11:00 a.m. (check the ND Sports Hotline at 574-631-3000, option 8 and then 3, for periodic updates throughout the day). The individual semifinals and finals bouts then will be held in the afternoon, beginning at approximately 1:00 p.m. (those bouts do not count to the team total).

Notre Dame and Ohio State hold the numbers advantage, as the only teams to qualify the maximum 12 fencers, while Penn State has 11 competitors and St. John’s 10 (eight of them returning All-Americans from the 2002 NCAAs, the most from any of the 2003 contenders). ND and OSU each will have the benefit of 108 bouts to pick up points on Sunday while Penn State has 99 bouts and St. John’s has 90.

Several of Notre Dame’s proven veterans faltered a bit in Saturday’s action but others stepped up to pick up the slack. Three men’s fencers – senior foilist Ozren Debic (third), sophomore epeeist Michal Sobieraj (first) and senior sabre Matt Fabricant (fourth) – and three of the women (sophomore foilists Andrea Ament and Alicja Kryczalo, respectively in first and fifth, plus sixth-place junior sabre Destanie Milo) all find themselves in position to challenge for a spot in the semifinals of their respective weapons.

Notre Dame’s scoring was fairly balanced, with the men combining to win 53 bouts in the morning action while the women posted 55 wins. Both foil squads produced the most wins for the Irish (24 by the women and 21 by the men), followed by 19 in men’s epee, 18 in men’s sabre, 14 in women’s sabre and 13 in women’s epee. St. John’s held a 54-53 lead on the Irish after the men’s competition, followed by Penn State (45), Columbia (42, followed by just 33 women’s wins) and Ohio State (42, before erupting for 60 women’s wins). SJU added 51 wins in the women’s bouts while PSU closed the gap with 60 women’s wins of its own.

The Irish men faced 22 bouts versus fencers from the other top contenders, posting an 11-11 record in those bouts (4-4 vs. OSU, 3-3 vs. PSU, 3-1 vs. Columbia and 1-3 vs. SJU). The women then went 16-14 vs. the contenders (6-4 vs. PSU, 4-6 vs. SJU, 3-3 vs. Columbia, 3-1 vs. OSU) for an overall team edge of 27-25.

Sunday’s key bouts for the Irish include men’s epee vs. OSU, men’s sabre vs. SJU and PSU, women’s foil and women’s sabre vs. OSU, and women’s sabre vs. PSU’s Austin O’Neill.

Women’s Notes

Ament – the 2002 NCAA runner-up – avenged her pair of ’02 NCAA losses to her teammate Kryczalo with a 5-4 opening win and went on to post a 13-1 record on Saturday, good for a tie with Irina Khouade of St. John’s (they also are tied in total-point indicators, at +44). Kryczalo is tied for fifth after going 11-3 (+33).

Junior Kerry Walton likely will not get a chance to defend her 2002 NCAA epee title, after splitting her 14 bouts (7-7, +9). Senior Meagan Call (6-8, -8) will be hoping to duplicate her second-day charge at the 2001 NCAAs, when she narrowly missed a spot in the semifinals.

Milo (9-5, +10) stands tied for sixth and is in good position to post her first All-America finish (top-12), after also competing at the 2001 and ’02 NCAAs. Her classmate Maggie Jordan (4-10, -21) rounds out the Irish contingent, in her first NCAA sabre appearance.

Ament’s only loss came to Khouade (2-5, in a rematch of the 2002 NCAA semifinal) but she racked up noteworthy wins vs. another SJU All-American Elizabeth Thottham (5-0), Penn State’s All-American Meredith Chin (5-0) and recent addition Anna Donath (5-1), and Princeton’ highly-touted newcomer Jacqueline Leahy (5-1). Kryczalo lost to Leahy (4-5) and Khouade (0-5) but remained in contention for the semifinals with key wins over Thottham (5-0), Chin (5-1) and Donath (5-2, avenging a loss at the ND Duals).

Walton registered a valuable sweep of OSU All-American Alexandra Shklar (5-3) and her teammate Sherice Gearhart (5-3) while losing to PSU All-American Jessie Burke (1-5) and newcomer Kasia Trzopek (2-5) and SJU’s lone entrant, All-American Arlene Stevens (3-5). Call posted a 5-4 win over Burke and beat Gearhart (5-3), with losses to Shklar (2-5), Trzopek (0-5) and Stevens (3-5). Wayne State All-American Anna Vinnikov picked up another win over an ND fencer (5-3 vs. Walton) but failed to sweep the Irish, losing 5-3 to Call.

Milo registered one of the more noteworthy wins of the day, besting SJU All-American Julia Gelman 5-4 (after losing to her teammate Christina Crane by the same score), with Milo’s other key bouts including wins over PSU All-American Heather Brosnan (5-3) and Northwestern newcomer Emily Pasternak (5-4) and losses to Columbia newcomer Emma Baratta (1-5) and Temple All-American Sakinah Shaahid (4-5). Jordan opened with wins over Milo (5-3) and Pasternak (5-2) but dropped her other key bouts in the first day of action.

Sunday’s key bouts for the Irish will include six tough foil opponents: Northwestern’s Julia Foldi, Wayne State’s Inga Wallrabenstein, OSU’s Hannah and Metta Thompson, and Stanford’s Iris Zimmerman and Eva Petschnigg. The Irish epeeists will face just two returning All-Americans on Sunday – Yale’s Erice Korb and Columbia’s Monica Conley – while the ND sabres will face pivotal bouts vs. Rutgers’ Alexis Jemal, OSU’s Louise-Bond Williams and Marguerite Plekhanov, and PSU’s Austin O’Neill.

Men’s Notes

Sobieraj (11-3, +21 in total-point indicators) will head into Sunday in a five-way tie for first place while three-time All-American and senior captain Jan Viviani overcame a slow start to finish 8-6/+12 on Saturday (placing him in seventh). Others tied atop the epee standings include SJU’s Arpad Horvath and Anton Gurevich, PSU’s Adam Wiercioch and Princeton’s Benjamin Solomon.

Debic (11-3, +26) is well on his way to a fourth All-America finish while sophomore Derek Snyder is tied for sixth at 10-4 (+17). The Irish pair completed a key sweep of Ohio State, with Debic easily besting Nathan Weir (5-1) and Matt Carbone (5-2) while Snyder beat Weir 5-1 and Carbone 5-3. Debic heads into the final bouts just one win behind co-leaders Non Panchan of Penn State (the defending champ) and SJU newcomer Nitai Kfir.

Fabricant – who made his NCAA debut in 2002 – already has bested his nine wins from that tournament, after an impressive 10-4 showing (+24) that placed him in a five-way logjam for fourth place. His classmate Gabor Szelle – the 2000 NCAA champion and ’99 runner-up – will be hard-pressed to contend for the title after opening 8-6/+6 (10th place). Fabricant currently is joined in the top four sabre spots by the SJU tandem of Ivan Lee (14-0; two-time defending champ) and newcomer Serhiy Isayenko (11-4) and OSU’s Jason Rogers (12-2).

Debic won six of his first seven bouts, including the sweep of OSU and a 5-3 win over Penn State’s Chris Miller (with a 5-1 loss to PSU’s Panchan). He then closed with four key wins over All-Americans: vs. Stanford’s Florian Reichling (5-4) and Steve Gerberman (5-1), Cal State Fullerton’s Roland Breden (5-1) and NYU’s Michael Pasinkoff (5-1). Snyder’s 5-3 start included the sweep of OSU, a 5-3 win over Miller, a 5-4 loss to Panchan and a 5-3 loss to St. John’s newcomer Nitai Kifir (who also posted a 5-4 win over Debic). Snyder then added wins over Gerberman (5-2), Reichling (5-4) and Pasinkoff (5-4), with a 5-2 loss to Breden.

Viviani scored an early 1-0 overtime win over longtime rival Seth Kelsey of Air Force and added the 5-3 win over SJU’s Horvath, but his 4-4 start also included a 3-2 loss to Sobieraj, an OT showdown with Gurevich (2-1 loss) and 5-2 losses to Air Force’s Tim French and Brian Garrett of Rutgers. Viviani’s series of close bouts were capped by overtime loses to PSU’s Wiercioch (0-1) and CSF’s Matthew McConaughy (4-5). Sobieraj opened 5-3, dropping a 5-2 bout to Kelsey while losing narrow decisions to Horvath (4-3, in overtime) and Gurevich (5-4). He then won his final six bouts, highlighted by a 4-3 overtime win over his Poland countryman Wiercioch.

Fabricant’s strong 10-4 start included 5-2 wins over All-Americans Andrew Sohn (Columbia) and Paul Friedman (Brown) and a 5-1 bout vs. Szelle, but he failed to beat OSU’s Adam Crompton (4-5) or Jason Rogers (2-5). Szelle (8-6) posted 5-3 wins over Sohn and Friedman while also losing to Crompton (3-5) and Rogers (2-5).

Sunday’s key foil bouts include the Irish taking on Rutgers All-American Jesse Schibilia while the ND men’s epeeists will battle OSU (Brian Gross, Spencer Jones) and face Princeton All-American Soren Thompson (the ’01 NCAA champ). There will be eight huge sabre bouts on Sunday, with the Irish facing SJU’s Lee and Isayenko and PSU’s Alex Weber and Marten Zagunis.