March 26, 2017

The University of Notre Dame capped four days of dominance by capturing its ninth national championship title on Sunday, amassing 186 points to outpace Ohio State (161) and Columbia Barnard (152) at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

History was also made on the individual strip as Notre Dame’s Lee Kiefer became the third fencer in history to claim four national title, winning on the foil strip over Ohio State’s Alanna Goldie. Also claiming individual crowns were Princeton’s Anna Van Brummen in epee and Notre Dame’s Francesca Russo in sabre.

Notre Dame led the field after each day of competition and mathematically clinched the title late in the fourth round of pools with a 5-1 win by Lee Kiefer over Cornell’s Lyubov Kiriakidi. It is the first title for the Fighting Irish since 2011 and first under head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia.

Notre Dame also paced the field with nine men’s and women’s All-Americans (top eight), while St. John’s and Ohio State had seven, Princeton had six and Harvard and Columbia each had four.

Kiefer led little doubt in her championship match-up with Goldie, winning 15-9 in dominating fashion. A two-time Olympian and NCAA champion in 2013, 2014 and 2015, Kiefer joined Michael Lofton (NYU men’s sabre; 1984-87) and Olga Kalinovskaya (Penn State women’s foil 1993-96) as the only four-time NCAA champions in college fencing history.

Margaret Lu of Columbia, the 2015 NCAA runner-up, paced the foil field with a 21-2 mark in pool play and met No. 4 seed Goldie in the first semifinal. Lu and Goldie battled tightly throughout the first portion of the bout, with Lu taking an 8-7 lead into the break, and appeared ready to pull away after the intermission, going ahead 12-9. Goldie fought back, however, to tie the bout at 13-all and scored the next two touches to earn a place in the final.

What started with a bevy of off-target attacks in the second semifinal turned into a rout for Kiefer, who upended defending national champion Eleanor Harvey of Ohio State 15-7. After Harvey took a 6-5 lead, Kiefer reeled off eight straight touches and outscored her Buckeye opponent 10-1 to win the bout.

It was an all-Princeton epee final as Olympian Katharine Holmes met Tiger teammate Anna Van Brummen in the title bout. Holmes, who placed third in the event in 2012, took an 8-6 lead before Van Brummen tied the bout at 9-all. Van Brummen then went up 12-10 and never relinquished the lead, claiming her first national title, 15-13.

“It is definitely bittersweet because my teammate Katherine Holmes also is so qualified,” Van Brummen said after the victory. “So the fact I had to beat out one of my teammates is not so sweet as it would have been otherwise but it still feels pretty great.”

Holmes and Ohio State’s Eugenia Falqui met in the first semifinal, with the top-seeded Holmes collecting a methodic 9-8 victory in overtime. Holmes had taken an 8-6 lead with less than a minute remaining in the third period, but Falqui forced the extra minute with two straight touches.

No. 2 seed Amanda Sirico of Notre Dame faced off with No. 3 Van Brummen in the second semifinal. The bout two traded touches throughout the first two periods, but Van Brummen pulled away in the final three minutes to take a 15-10 win to meet her teammate in the final.

Russo and Penn State’s Teodora Kakhiani ended the championship with a dramatic and thrilling bout. After falling behind 0-2, Russo evened the match at 2-2 and the two competitors then battled back and forth throughout the rest of the match. After the break, Russo and Kakhiani traded two-point scoring streaks with Russo evening the match 9-9 on a replay appeal.

Russo edged ahead 10-9, but Kakhiani came right back to score two in a row, including an unusual point where she lost her footing at the very far end of the strip. Russo missed a score and Kakhiani would take advantage to go up 11-10.

Kakhiani eventually took a 14-13 lead and reached match point. Russo buckled down and quickly evened the match on a quick strike to bring up the dramatic final point. Kakhiani attacked and Russo took a step back and stumbled. Before Kakhiani could take the advantage, Russo recovered and tapped her on the shoulder to claim her second national championship.

Russo was the clear No. 1 seed coming out of preliminaries, posting a 20-3 record with a +39 indicator. Meeting No. 4 seeded Mathilda Taharo (16-7, +24) in the first semifinal, Russo left little doubt in a 15-9 win.

In the second semifinal, second-seeded Maia Chamberlain of Princeton jumped out to an 8-3 lead over third-seeded Kakhiani before the Nittany Lion roared back to go ahead 13-12. The two traded touches to tie it at 14-all before Kakhiani completed the comeback on a back-and-forth final exchange. Chamberlain went 19-4 in pools with a +44 indicator, while Kakhiani was 17-6 and +27.