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Keys To The Meet: NCAA Midwest Regional

March 9, 2018

By Joanne Norell

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The top-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s and second-ranked men’s fencing teams will look to qualify their top fencers for NCAA Championships consideration as the first rounds of competition get underway this Saturday at the NCAA Midwest Regional Fencing Championships at Cleveland State University.

WHAT: NCAA Midwest Regional Championships
WHERE: Woodling Gymnasium | Cleveland, Ohio
WHEN: March 10, 2018
WHO: Notre Dame, Ohio State, Northwestern, Detroit Mercy, Wayne State, Lawrence, Cleveland State
LINKS: @NDFencing | Live Results

NCAA Midwest Regional Championship Overview

Both Irish fencing squads will be looking to qualify the maximum 12 fencers to the 2018 NCAA Championships, which will be hosted by Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, later this month.

Placement at the NCAA regional competition accounts for 60 percent of a participant’s selection into the Championships with Fencer’s Seeding Factor (FSF) accounting for the other 40 percent. The regional champion will automatically be considered for allocation for recommendation to participate in the championships and, if a school has more than two qualifiers, it will be an institutional decision as to who will be recommended.

The regional competition consists of one round of pool play in each weapon, with total wins determining placement. Ties will be broken first by indicator, then by touches scored. Midwest region fencers can qualify up to six competitors in women’s foil, five in women’s epee and men’s sabre and four in women’s sabre, men’s epee and men’s foil. The women’s round robin will begin at 9 a.m. ET, followed by the men’s at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Irish at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships

The Irish will send 18 fencers to Cleveland State in hopes of qualifying 12 (two per weapon, per gender) for the NCAA Championships. In each of the past three seasons, the Irish have reached that number, leading to a third-place national finish in 2015, a fifth-place finish in 2016 and a national title performance in 2017. Nine Irish fencers earned All-America honors en route to last season’s NCAA Championship: Lee Kiefer (`17), Sabrina Massialas, Francesca Russo, Amanda Sirico, Kristjan Archer (`17), Axel Kiefer, Ariel Simmons, Jonathan Fitzgerald and Jonah Shainberg. All but Kiefer and Archer return for the Irish this season.

At last season’s midwest regional, the Irish claimed two regional titles: one in women’s foil by Lee Kiefer, and one in women’s sabre by Francesca Russo. Both went on to win individual national titles.

Irish Regional Participants (Preliminary Seed)
Men’s Epee — Nicholas Hanahan (5), Ariel Simmons (6), Dylan French (7)
Men’s Foil — Nick Itkin (1), Axel Kiefer (3)
Men’s Sabre — Jonah Shainberg (3), Jonathan Fitzgerald (6)
Women’s Epee — Amanda Sirico (1), Dasha Yefremenko (5), Julia Barry (6), Marie-Anne Roche (11), Katherine Wallace (13)
Women’s Foil — Elyssa Kleiner (3), Sabrina Massialas (4), Stefani Deschner (7)
Women’s Sabre — Francesca Russo (2), Tara Hassett (3)

Rankings Rundown

CollegeFencing360 released the second coaches poll of the season on Feb. 9, with the Irish women holding on to the No. 1 spot, while the Irish men came in at No. 2

Men’s Rankings

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

Women’s Rankings

1. Notre Dame
2. Columbia
3. Penn State
4. Ohio State
5. Princeton
6. Harvard
7. Temple
8. Pennsylvania
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.


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.