March 24, 2002
MADISON, N.J.- Notre Dame held its third-place standing in Sunday’s final rounds of action at the NCAA Combined Fencing Championship, with the Irish men completing their two days of competition in the four-day event by placing five of six fencers on the All-American teams.
The Irish were unable to close their seven-point deficit on third-round leader Penn State, which totaled 195 victories in the women’s and men’s round-robin bouts to claim its sixth NCAA title in the last seven years. Defending champion St. John’s managed 190 points, despite qualifying just 11 of the maximum 12 fencers, while Notre Dame finished nine points off the pace at 186.
The Irish men and women combined for 10 All-America finishes, besting the team record (9) set in the 2000 NCAA runner-up season. Foilist Ozren Debic (Zagreb, Croatia) and fellow junior captain Jan Viviani (epee, Haworth, N.J.) became the 11th and 12th Notre Dame fencers ever to earn All-America honors as a freshman, sophomore and junior while senior sabre captain Andre Crompton (Irvington, N.J.) repeated as an All-American. Two freshmen – foilist Derek Snyder (Chatsworth, Calif.) and epeeist Michal Sobieraj (Krakow, Poland) – joined three members of the Irish women’s team by earning All-America honors in their NCAA debut.
Head-to-head matchups versus Penn State and St. John’s helped provide the final margins, with PSU holding a 14-10 edge vs. ND (an eight-point swing) while SJU split its 22 bouts vs. the Irish.
The ND women split vs. PSU (6-6) and owned an 8-3 edge vs. SJU, while the Nittany Lions (8-4) and Red Storm (7-3) both posted four-bout edges vs. the ND men.
Notre Dame’s 186-point total actually would have won the NCAA title in the past two NCAA Championships (the field expanded to six weapons with the debut of women’s sabre in 2000).
Debic won seven of his nine round-robin bouts on Sunday to earn the No. 2 seed in the semifinals, with an 18-5 record, before losing the semifinal bout to Jonathan Tiomkin of St. John’s (15-10) and dropping the third-place bout to Stanford freshman Steve Gerberman, 15-9 (those bouts do not count to the team total).
Debic became the 15th men’s fencer in Notre Dame’s storied history to earn multiple first team All-America honors (top four NCAA finisher), earlier finishing as the 2000 runner-up before tying for fourth in ’01 (he missed the ’01 semifinals due to the “total-points” indicators that are used as a tiebreaker). Debic is the sixth foilist on that elite first team All-America list, joining the likes of Pat Gerard (’77, ’78), Andy Bonk (’79, ’80), Charles Higgs-Coulthard (’84-’87), Yehuda Kovacs (’86, ’88) and Noel Young (’90, ’92).
Viviani – the third-place finisher in 2000 and ’01 – nearly became the third Notre Dame men’s fencer ever to post three consecutive first team All-America finishes, after winning six of nine bouts on Sunday to finish fifth at 17-6 (one win shy of the semifinals).
Crompton also narrowly missed the semifinals, closing with an inspired 8-1 record on Sunday for an 18-5 total that tied him for fourth – with Ohio State freshman Jason Rogers earning the final semifinal spot due to his 11-point edge on indicators.
Snyder – still battling through the effects of a bout with tonsillitis that limited his conditioning and practice in recent weeks – combined with Debic as one of two sets of teammates that finished in the top seven of the men’s foil field (Stanford was the other to so). Snyder’s 7-2 closing record placed him in a tie for sixth at 15-8, finishing seventh behind Pennsylvania’s Jeff Bean based on indicators.
Sobieraj closed with six wins in his last nine bouts for a 10th-place finish at 12-11. Junior sabre Matt Fabricant (Elizabeth, N.J.) finished 14th with a 9-14 record.
Notes: Debic’s .789 career winning pct. in the NCAAs (56-15) ranks seventh in ND men’s fencing history and fourth among foilists, behind Bonk (59-5, .922), Gerard (37-7, .841) and Young (30-6, .833), with each of those fencers competing in just two NCAAs … Viviani (51-18) and Crompton (34-12) both own a solid .704 career winning pct. in the NCAAs … Crompton’s impressive push on Sunday in the deep sabre field included 5-4 wins over OSU’s Rogers and Colin Parker and a 5-2 victory over SJU’s Darrin Whitmer … Viviani’s top wins on Sunday included 5-4 bouts vs. rivals Seth Kelsey of Air Force and PSU’s Adam Wiercioch.