March 10, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame fencing program received word from the NCAA men’s and women’s fencing committee Tuesday afternoon that they had successfully qualified 12 fencers – the maximum allowed by NCAA rules – for the NCAA Championship, held Mar. 19-22 at the French Field House on the campus of Ohio State. Columbia was the only other school to qualify 12, while Penn State, Princeton and St. John’s each earned 11 bids and Harvard and Ohio State earned 10 apiece.
“As always, we are excited to compete at the NCAAs,” Irish head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia states. “However, we are not changing anything in regards to preparing for this meet. We are upholding our daily routine, to prepare just as if it was any other competition. We want to approach this event as though every team has 12 men and women competing, so we will compete as hard as we can regardless of who we face.”
The Irish are represented by a mix of old hands and fresh faces, as six of the 12 have competed in previous NCAA Championships and the other six will be making their NCAA title debuts. Says Kvaratskhelia, “We are going to tap into our experience from the upperclassmen who have been here before, for sure. They have had considerable success in the past, and for the freshmen, we want to continue to build on their dynamic performance from this season.”
On the women’s team, two-time defending NCAA women’s foil champion Lee Kiefer – currently ranked No. 4 in the world in the senior open category – is joined in the foil weapon group by four-time NCAA competitor Madison Zeiss. Zeiss last year finished second to Kiefer, after finishing tied for third in 2013 and coming in eighth in 2012. In epee, captains Nicole Ameli and Ashley Severson will both be making their third appearance at the Championships, competing in both 2012 and 2014. Last year, Ameli finished eighth (13-23) while Severson placed 10th (11-23).
Kiefer is not the only returning champion for the Irish either, as fifth-year senior Ariel DeSmet – 2011 NCAA men’s foil champion – is joined by newcomer Virgile Collineau. In men’s epee, 2014 NCAA runner-up Garrett McGrath will be making his third career appearance at the Championships, and is joined by freshman Nicholas Hanahan. In both men’s and women’s sabre, the Irish boast an all-freshman contingent – as Claudia Kulmacz and Francesca Russo will be competing in the women’s event and Jonah Shainberg and Jonathan Fitzgerald will represent in the men’s competition. Russo is currently ranked eighth in the world in the women’s junior division, while Shainberg is 24th in the men’s junior category.
Fencers will compete in a round-robin format of five-touch bouts, with the top four finishers in each weapon advancing to semifinal, 15-touch direct elimination bouts. The winners of each semifinal will fence to determine first and second places, with the non-advancing fencers finishing tied for third. Each institution will be awarded one point for each victory from its student-athletes throughout the duration of the championships, determining their finish in the team competition.
To catch live coverage of the event, log in to ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app. A one-hour long, documentary-style highlight show of the National Collegiate Men’s and Women’s Fencing Championships will air on ESPNU at 3 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday, April 8.For more information about the championships, log on to NCAA.com.
Notre Dame Entrants:
Nicholas Hanahan, Garrett McGrath – Men’s Epee
Nicole Ameli, Ashley Severson – Women’s Epee
Virgile Collineau, Ariel DeSmet – Men’s Foil
Lee Kiefer, Madison Zeiss – Women’s Foil
Jonathan Fitzgerald, Jonah Shainberg – Men’s Sabre
Claudia Kulmacz, Francesca Russo – Women’s Sabre
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