March 19, 2003

The 2003 NCAA Combined Men’s and Women’s Fencing Championships – which have been condensed from a four- to two-day event (March 22-23), due to severe weather in the Colorado Springs area – will feature some elite fencers at all six weapons, including many of Notre Dame’s 12 competitors.

Notre Dame joined Ohio State in qualifying the maximum 12 fencers (two per weapon) for the NCAAs, with defending champion Penn State and Columbia each qualifying 11 while St. John’s (the 2001 champ and ’02 runner-up) has 10 participants.

The top-five qualifying teams return a combined 36 fencers from the 2002 NCAAs, led by Notre Dame (9), St. John’s (8) and Ohio State (8), plus six for Penn State and five for Columbia-Barnard. SJU returns the most All-Americans (top-12 finishers) from the ’02 NCAAs (8), followed by ND (7), PSU (6), OSU (5) and CB (2).

The Irish return four semifinalists from the ’02 NCAAs (men’s foilist Ozren Debic, women’s foilists Alicja Kryczalo and Andrea Ament, and women’s epeeist Kerry Walton) while SJU also returns four top-four finishers (men’s epeeist Arpad Horvath and sabre Ivan Lee, women’s foilist Irna Khouade and sabre Julia Gelman) – with three semifinalists back from both OSU (men’s sabre Jason Rogers, women’s foilist Hannah Thompson and sabre Louise Bond-Williams) and PSU (men’s epeeist Non Panchan, foilist Adam Wiercioch and sabre Alex Weber). The above teams also return five of the six 2002 NCAA champions – ND’s Kryczalo and Walton, SJU’s Horvath and Lee and PSU’s Ponchan – while ND’s Ament and OSU’s Bond-Williams were 2002 NCAA runner-ups.

Here’s a capsule look at how Notre Dame’s competitors stack up against the field in each of the six weapons:

* Women’s Foil – easily the most competitive and talented field of competitors in the 2003 NCAAs, with 12 of 24 competitors back from the ’02 NCAAs (including 10 All-Americans and each of the top-eight finishers) … several newcomers add to the deep field, including Stanford transfer Eva Petsnchnigg … each of the past three NCAA champs are among the field: ND’s Alicja Kryczalo (’02), Stanford’s Iris Zimmerman (’01) and Petsnchnigg (’00, while at Princeton) … other top returners from the 2002 NCAAs include ND’s Andrea Ament (2nd), OSU’s Hannah (3rd) and Metta (5th) Thompson and SJU’s Irina Khouade (4th) – plus Wayne State’s Inga Wallrabenstein (6th) and Northwestern’s Julia Foldi (8th) … top newcomers to watch include Princeton’s Jacqueline Leahy (the world’s #2-ranked junior level in world), Penn State second-semester addition Anna Donath (who ended Kryczalo’s long winning streak, in the ND Duals) and the Harvard duo of Anne Austin and Chloe Stinetorf … the field also includes Princeton veteran Mindy Rostal (9th in 2000, 3rd in ’01, did not fence in ’02 NCAAs), SJU’s Elizabeth Thottham (15th in ’00, 10th in ’01, 11th in ’02), PSU’s Meredith Chin (12th in ’02) and Columbia’s Ellen Blount (20th in ’00, 14th in ’01 and ’02).

* Women’s Epee – also features 12 returners from the 2002 NCAAs but just five All-Americans, with defending champ Kerry Walton of ND being the only returner from the ’02 semifinalists … PSU’s Jessie Burke won the 2000 NCAA title (dnf in ’01, 5th in ’02) while SJU’s Arlene Stevens was the 2001 runner-up, after finishing the 2000 round-robin as the top seed for the semifinals (she ended up 4th in ’00, also placing 7th in ’02) … ND’s Meagan Call (12th in ’00, 5th in ’01) makes her NCAA return while OSU’s Alexandra Shklar (6th in ’01, 8th in ’02) also is a two-time All-American … newcomers who could make an impact include Northwestern’s Sharon Sullivan and PSU’s Kasia Trzopek … Columbia has two returners from the ’02 NCAAs: Monica Conley (12th) and Kim Bush (24th) … ND senior Anna Carnick (a three-time All-American) is an alternate.

* Women’s Sabre – the NCAA’s “youngest weapon,” in its fourth season of competition, with 11 returners and six of the 12 All-Americans back from the ’02 NCAAs … Yale’s Sada Jacobson is the only non-returning 2002 champion but the ’03 field includes last year’s 2-6 finishers: OSU’s Louis Bond-Williams (2nd), SJU’s Julia Gelman (3rd) and Christina Crane (5th), Temple’s Sakinah Shaddhid (4th in ’01 and ’02) and PSU’s Heather Brosnan (6th in ’01 and ’02) … ND’s Destanie Milo (18th in ’02, 17th in ’01) is the 9th-highest returner from the ’02 NCAAs while her classmate Maggie Jordan earned an at-large berth for her first NCAA sabre appearance (she placed 17th in the 2001 NCAA foil competition) … the field also includes Rutgers’ Alexis Jemal (5th in 01, 10th in ’02) and several noteworthy newcomers: OSU’s Marguerite Plekhanov, Columbia’s Emma Baratta and Northwestern’s Emily Pasternak.

* Men’s Foil – field includes 11 returners from ’02 NCAAs (seven of them All-Americans) and three of the ’02 semifinalists: PSU’s Non Panchan (champ), Stanford’s Steve Gerberman (3rd) and ND three-time All-American Ozren Debic (4th, also 2000 runner-up and 5th in ’01) … ND’s Derek Snyder (7th) is the 4th-highest returner from the ’02 NCAAs … ND senior Forest Walton is an alternate … SJU has just one entrant in this weapon (departed Jon Tiomkin was the ’02 runner-up) but that fencer, Nitai Kfir, is considered a semifinal contender … Stanford’s Florida Reichling (3rd in ’01) is making his return to the NCAAs (his brother Felix beat Debic in the ’00 title bout) … OSU’s Natahan Weir placed 15th at the ’02 NCAAs while Columbia’s Jeremy Sinkin was 16th.

* Men’s Epee – the most impressive returning talent among the men’s weapons, with the 11 fencers back including eight All-Americans and each of the top-six finishers from the ’02 NCAAs: SJU’s Arpad Horvath (1st) and Anton Gurevich (6th), Princeton’s Soren Thompson (2nd, also ’01 champ), Air Force three-time All-American Seth Kelsey (3rd, also 9th in ’00, 6th in ’01), PSU’s Adam Wiercioch (4th, also ’01 runner-up) and ND three-time All-American Jan Viviani (5th, also 3rd in ’00 and ’01) … ND’s Michal Sobieraj (10th) is the next-highest returner with the raw talent and international experience to compete for the title … Viviani and Kelsey are longtime U.S. rivals while Sobieraj and Wiercioch have been teammates with the Polish National Team program … PSU’s Ethan Muri is the first alternate (ND junior North Carey the second) … Air Force’s Tim French is among the top newcomers … OSU’s Brian Gross (15th) and Spencer Jones (16th) also return from the ’02 NCAA field.

* Men’s Sabre – 10 fencers return from the ’02 NCAAs but just five All-Americans, led by SJU’s Ivan Lee (the ’01 and ’02 NCAA champ) … ND’s Gabor Szelle – who beat Lee in the 2000 NCAA semifinals, en route to the title – returns after not fencing in the ’01 or ’02 NCAAs (he was the ’99 runner-up) … OSU boasts a strong tandem of Jason Rogers (3rd in ’02) and newcomer Adam Crompton (brother of former ND All-American Andre Crompton) … PSU’s Alex Weber placed 4th at the ’02 NCAAs while ND’s Matt Fabricant (14th) is the 7th-highest returner … Columbia’s Andrew Sohn (10th) posted an All-America finish at the ’02 NCAAs … joining Crompton among the top newcomers to watch is SJU’s Serhiy Isayenko.