March 15, 2002

The Notre Dame fencing program will join Penn State and St. John’s as the leading contenders at next week’s NCAA Combined Fencing Championships, as the Irish and Nittany Lions have been allocated the maximum 12 fencers for the four-day tournament while the defending national champion Red Storm qualified 11 fencers for the NCAAs.

Midwest rival Ohio State (10) was the only other school to qualify double-digit fencers, while Columbia-Barnard, Pennsylvania and Yale each are slated to send nine fencers to the NCAAs, which will be held March 21-24 at Drew University in Madison, N.J. Traditional power Stanford qualified just seven fencers, including only two in the women’s field.

St. John’s qualified just one fencer in the men’s foil field while Ohio State is slated to send just one entrant in both men’s foil and women’s epee.

Notre Dame’s two competitors in the six weapons will include four veteran All-Americans, in senior men’s sabre captain Andre Crompton (Irvington, N.J.) and a trio of two-time All-Americans: junior men’s foil captain Ozren Debic (Zagreb, Croatia), junior men’s epee captain Jan Viviani (Haworth, N.J.) and junior women’s epee captain Anna Carnick (Mishawaka, Ind.).

The Irish also return a pair with NCAA experience at women’s sabre, as fifth-year Carianne McCullough (Philadelphia, Pa.) competed in the 2000 and ’01 NCAAs while sophomore Destanie Milo (Knox, Ind./Culver Academy) fenced in the 2001 NCAAs.

Half of Notre Dame’s contingent will be making their NCAA debuts but each is capable of earning All-America honors, after strong showings during the 2002 season.

Freshmen Alicja Kryczalo (Gdansk, Poland) and Andrea Ament (Cleveland, Ohio) were the top-ranked women’s foilists in the Midwest region and could contend for the NCAA title, as could freshman men’s epeeist Michal Sobieraj (Krakow, Poland) and sophomore women’s epeeist Kerry Walton (Londonderry, N.H.).

Freshman men’s foilist Derek Snyder (Chatsworth, Calif.) returned from illness to post a strong runner-up showing at the Midwest Regional Championship while junior Matt Fabricant (Elizabeth, N.J.) edged teammate Andrzej Bednarski in receiving one of two at-large spots in the men’s sabre field (Notre Dame’s other 11 entrants received Midwest region berths).

Check back to und.com throughout the next week and during each day of the NCAAs for complete coverage of Notre Dame’s quest for the NCAA title.