March 22, 2002
MADISON, N.J. –
(check back for additional notes and photos from the NCAA action and awards presentation)
The Notre Dame fencing team remained in a tight three-squad race in the team competition while three Irish newcomers – freshman foilists Alicja Kryczalo and Andrea Ament and sophomore epeeist Kerry Walton – posted top finishes in the individual competition, following second-day action of the NCAA Combined Fencing Championships, at Drew University’s Simon Center.
Defending champion St. John’s surged atop the team standings after winning 43 of its 54 round-robin bouts on Friday for a final total of 100 wins in the two-day women’s competition. Notre Dame – the opening-day leader – posted 36 wins for a two-day total of 97, followed by Penn State (94), Ohio State (79) and Yale (65). The tournament concludes over the weekend with the two-day men’s competition, which should favor Notre Dame and Penn State due to their maximum six entrants in the men’s field (compared to five for SJU).
Kryczalo (Gdansk, Poland) joined former Irish epeeist Magda Krol (’97 champion) as the only Notre Dame women’s fencers ever to win the NCAA title in their freshman seasons (just two Irish men’s freshman fencers have matched that feat). Walton (Londonderry, N.H.) then won the epee title, making Notre Dame just the second women’s team ever to post multiple champions at the same NCAAs (the 1999 St. John’s team is the only men’s squad to do so since 1991).
Two other Irish fencers earned All-America honors (top 12), as junior epee captain Anna Carnick (Mishawaka, Ind.) placed 10th for her third career All-America finish while fifth-year senior sabre captain Carianne McCullough (Philadelphia, Pa.) closed her career with a 12th-place All-America finish. Sophomore sabre Destanie Milo (Knox, Ind.) rounded out the Irish contingent, winning eight bouts in the two-day competition.
Kryczalo and Ament (Gates Mill, Ohio) completed one of the most dominating performances by teammates in NCAA history, as each won all nine of her bouts on Friday to yield the maximum two-day total of 45 wins between the two Irish rookies. Both then won semifinal bouts before Kryczalo beat Ament for the NCAA gold medal, 15-6.
Kryczalo closed her stellar debut season by winning 68 of her final 69 bouts with the Irish while posting a 92-3 overall season record in 2002. Her 23-0 showing in the NCAA round-robin bouts included an impressive +100 edge in indicators, as she allowed just 15 touches in her 23 five-touch bouts (including 14 wins by 5-0 scores) before beating Ohio State’s Hannah Thompson in the semifinals, 15-5.
Ament’s 22-1 round-robin record included an opening loss to Kryczalo before rolling to a spot in the semifinals, where she won a tight 15-13 battle with Irina Khouade of St. John’s.
Walton ( – who was making her NCAA debut after not fencing in 2001 – ) fought her way through the deep epee field before besting four-time All-American Stephanie Eim of Penn State, 15-12, in the gold-medal bout (Eim had gone unbeaten in the round-robin). Walton won six of her nine bouts on Friday for an 18-5 round-robin record, good for the third seed in the semifinals before posting a 15-12 win over defending NCAA champion Emese Takacs of St. John’s.
Walton combines with her brother Forest as the first brother-sister combination in Notre Dame fencing history ever to earn All-America honors. Forest, who placed ninth in the 2001 NCAA foil competition, currently is spending his junior year in Rome as part of his five-year architecture curriculum.
“What Alicja and Andrea did the past two days is the best performance I’ve ever seen on the women’s side and Kerry had an amazing showing for her first time in the NCAAs. Those three are a great foundation for the future of this program,” said retiring Notre Dame head coach Yves Auriol, who has led the Irish women’s team for the past 17 seasons, in addition to seven years as the program’s men’s coach.
“I still think that our strength is on the men’s side and we have several NCAA veterans who are excited for their chance to bring home the NCAA championship. We are in good position and the team is really coming together at the right time. It’s a great environment and there is plenty of team spirit – it should be an exciting weekend.”
KERRY WALTON QUOTES: “The coaches told me to be patient because (Eim) is very good at just waiting for you to attack, so distance is very important. Once I was ahead it wasn’t as difficult, but it was tough getting those first few points.
“I think this is where we want to be right now. St. John’s is one spot ahead of us, and their men’s team has one less fencer than we do right now. That is definitely a plus, as long as we don’t let it get to our head. Even though they are down one person, we have to keep fencing strong. I think our men can do it, they are extrememly strong and I have confidence in them.
“I talked to Forest and he said that he had done his part (by earning All-America), so I had to do mine. He told me that I had to beat him. He also e-mailed the rest of the team from Rome, wishing he could be here and wishing luck to all of us.”
ANDREA AMENT QUOTES: “It was important for me to be mentally tough. I was really happy with how I handled the bouts vs. Iris (Zimmermann) and (Irina) Khoude. Against Iris, the key for me was just to keep my intensity up and not have any lazy touches.
“The NCAAs is so new to me but I knew what I had to do and was very focused. I was very prepared coming into it and Alicja’s performance helped me a lot. It excites you when your teammate is doing that well.
“It will be fun to watch the next couple of days and cheer on our men’s team.”
MORE YVES AURIOL QUOTES: “I was very please with what the foilists did – they really were on top of their games.
“Kerry is not the greatest technical fencer but she is such a tremendous competitor and her timing was on. Eim also is a great competitor and a veteran fencer but Kerry was up to that challenge.
“Ament has proven that she is a great fencer by placing third in the World Championships but she also has had her ups and downs. Today she took another big step. Her speed and timing were on and she had to battle from behind a couple time – just a great day for her.”