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Keys To The Meet: 2018 NCAA Championships

March 21, 2018

By Joanne Norell

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – The University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s fencing programs begin their national title defense Thursday as competition begins at the 2018 National Collegiate Men’s and Women’s Fencing Championships at Penn State University.

The Irish will seek their 10th national title this weekend and will look to repeat as champions for just the second time in program history. The only other years in which Notre Dame has won back-to-back national championships was in 1977 and 1978, when the men’s program earned consecutive titles.

WHAT: 2018 National Collegiate Men’s and Women’s Fencing Championships
WHERE: Multi-Sport Facility | State College, Pa.
WHEN: March 22-25, 2018
WATCH: ESPN3 | Women’s Semifinals & Finals, 1 p.m. ET Friday; Men’s Semifinals & Finals, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
RESULTS: Live Scores
MORE: Tournament Central

NCAA Championships Overview

The Irish fencing program has qualified the maximum of 12 fencers (two per weapon, per gender) to this year’s NCAA Championships, hosted by Penn State University. The Championships will be played in a five-round round robin format – with each fencer accumulating points with wins during the round robin – followed by the individual semifinal and championship bouts. Round robin bouts will be played to five touches, while the semifinals and finals will be 15-touch bouts. Each point earned contributes to a team score to determine the combined men’s and women’s team championship. The women will fencing on Thursday and Friday, followed by the men on Saturday and Sunday.

Schedule of Events

(All Time Eastern)
9 a.m. – Women’s Foil Rounds 1-3
11 a.m. – Women’s Epee Rounds 1-3
1:30 p.m. – Women’s Sabre Rounds 1-3
9 a.m. – Women’s Foil, Epee and Sabre Rounds 4-5
1:30 p.m. – Women’s Semifinal and Championship bouts in order of epee, foil, sabre
9 a.m. – Men’s Foil Rounds 1-3
11 a.m. – Men’s Epee Rounds 1-3
1:30 p.m. – Men’s Sabre Rounds 1-3
9 a.m. – Men’s Foil, Epee and Sabre Rounds 4-5
1:30 p.m. – Men’s Semifinal and Championship bouts in order of epee, foil, sabre

Irish Qualifiers

Women’s Epee
Amanda Sirico Dasha Yefremenko
Women’s Foil
Elyssa Kleiner
Sabrina Massialas Women’s Sabre
Francesca Russo Tara Hassett

Men’s Epee
Nicholas Hanahan
Ariel Simmons Men’s Foil
Nick Itkin
Axel Kiefer Men’s Sabre
Jonathan Fitzgerald Jonah Shainberg

On The Air

A live feed of the semifinal and final bouts will be available on ESPN3 or the WatchESPN App beginning at 1 p.m. ET on both Friday and Sunday. The semi-finals and finals, along with other championships highlights, will air on ESPNU at 1 p.m. ET on April 4. For more information about the championships, log onto

2018 Accolades

For the fourth straight season, Notre Dame boast five individual Atlantic Coast Conference champions, with the women sweeping the three-weapon field while the men snared two conference crowns. Junior Amanda Sirico, who was named the ACC Fencer of the Year for Women’s Epee on Wednesday, captured her second straight women’s epee title last month, while junior foilist Elyssa Kleiner and senior sabreuse Francesca Russo were each first-time winners in their respective disciplines. Senior sabreur Jonah Shainberg was emphatic in clinching his second career conference championship, while freshman foilist Nick Itkin claimed his first career title.

Two weeks later, the Irish secured six podium finishes at the NCAA Midwest Regional, highlighted by first-place performances from Sirico and junior foilist Sabrina Massialas. Kleiner and junior sabreuse Tara Hassett claimed silver for the women, while junior Axel Kiefer placed second and Itkin claimed third in men’s foil.

Rankings Rundown

CollegeFencing360 released the second coaches poll of the season on March 9, with the Irish women holding on to the No. 1 spot, while the Irish men came in at No. 4

Men’s Rankings

1. Ohio State
2. Harvard
3. Columbia
4. Notre Dame
5. Penn State
6. Pennsylvania
7. Duke
8. Princeton
9. St. John’s
10. NYU

Women’s Rankings

1. Notre Dame
1. Columbia
3. Ohio State
4. Penn State
5. Princeton
6. Harvard
7. Pennsylvania
8. Temple
9. Northwestern
10. Duke

A Banner 2017 Season

Last season, Notre Dame captured its ninth national title, serving as the host institution at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis. It was a memorable spring for the Irish, who boasted two individual champions in Lee Kiefer (women’s foil) and Francesca Russo (women’s sabre), and seven additional All-Americans: Amanda Sirico (women’s epee), Sabrina Massialas (women’s foil), Kristjan Archer (men’s foil), Axel Kiefer (men’s foil), Ariel Simmons (men’s epee), Jonah Shainberg (men’s sabre), Jonathan Fitzgerald (men’s sabre). Notre Dame’s 186 team points were the most for the Irish in a championship win, and they bested the second-place team, Ohio State, by 25 points.

On The Return

Of Notre Dame’s 12 NCAA qualifiers last season, nine return to the Irish squad this season. Francesca Russo, Tara Hassett, Amanda Sirico, Sabrina Massialas, Jonathan Fitzgerald, Jonah Shainberg, Ariel Simmons, Dylan French, and Axel Kiefer all return to the strip for the 2017-18 season. Russo, Sirico, Massialas, Fitzgerald, Shainberg, Simmons and Kiefer each earned All-America recognition last season.


Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2014 and coordinates communications efforts for the Notre Dame men’s tennis and fencing programs, in addition to assisting with football communications and overseeing production of the football Gameday Magazine. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University and earned her master’s degree from Georgetown University in 2013.