Feb. 28, 2003

(Note: check back to und.com for more details on this weekend’s top matchups and fencers to watch.)

The Notre Dame men’s and women’s fencing teams will welcome 12 other schools to the annual Midwest Fencing Conference Championships, to be held Saturday, March 1 (team competition) and Sunday, March 2 (individual championships) in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse. The top-ranked Notre Dame men are riding a long string of conference titles while the Irish women, currently third-ranked, were nipped by Northwestern at the 2001 MFCs before winning the 2002 conference title.

Notre Dame’s veteran roster includes six former Midwest Fencing Conference individual champions (in five of the six weapons), with the team’s top opposition expected to come from growing rival Ohio State (ranked fourth in both polls) and the Northwestern women’s squad, currently ranked No. 8 in the national polls.

Sunday’s individual competition will provide the final credentials as fencers jockey for seeding at next weekend’s Midwest Regional, to be held at Ohio State. The Regional seedings and results are the primary criteria used in determining what fencers will represent the region at the NCAA Championships (March 20-23), with the Irish hoping to again qualify the maximum 12 fencers (two per weapon, in both men and women) in quest of the NCAA title.

Competition starts at 8:00 a.m. each day, with the team competition featuring six different series of team matches (for each of the weapons, as opposed to the usual dual-meet matchups in which schools compete in all weapons at the same time). All three men’s weapons, plus women’s epee and foil, will begin competition at 8:00 a.m., with the women’s sabre bouts following the men’s sabre competition. The men’s epee final is expected to begin at 12:30 p.m., with all fencing expected to conclude by 5:00 p.m.

Sunday’s bouts will begin with the men’s epee, foil and sabre individual competition – followed by the women’s weapons.

The weekend action will provide Notre Dame fans with the final chance to watch one of the most accomplished senior classes in the program’s history. Those veteran leaders include three-time All-Americans Anna Carnick (women’s epee), Ozren Debic (men’s foil) and Jan Viviani (men’e epee), plus men’s sabres Gabor Szelle (the 2000 NCAA champion and ’99 runner-up) and Matt Fabricant (’02 NCAA participant), women’s foilist Liza Boutsikaris (’00 All-American, ’01 NCAA participant) and men’s foilist Forest Walton (’01 All-American, ’00 NCAA participant).

Debic became the first Notre Dame fencer to win three conference titles at the 2002 Midwest Fencing Conference Championships while Viviani joined current junior women’s epeeist Kerry Walton and current sophomore women’s foilist Alicja Kryczalo in giving the Irish four of the six MFC individual champions. Szelle also won the MFC title in 1999 while Carnick claimed the epee title in 2000.