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Orlando Earns At-Large Spot As Irish Secure 11 Spots For NCAA Fencing Championship

March 19, 2004

The Notre Dame fencing program has qualified 11 fencers for the upcoming NCAA Championships and thus will be looking to repeat as national champions with one fencer under the 12-participant maximum for NCAA competition (two per weapon). Notre Dame’s longtime rival Penn State and emerging Ohio State both have qualified 12 fencers for the NCAAs while Columbia-Barnard will have 11 participants and St. John’s 10.

The NCAA team scoring format is based on 23 round-robin bouts for each competitor and Notre Dame can look to recent history at the NCAAs as proof that a school with 11 entries can win the team title. The 2001 NCAAs saw a 12-fencer Penn State squad make its bid before finishing second to St. John’s (180-172, with ND’s 12-fencer group well back in third at 153). The 2002 NCAAs featured a similar ending, as an 11-fencer SJU squad nearly won the championship, finishing with 190 points (behind PSU’s 195 but ahead of the 186 posted by a 12-fencer ND squad). Then, in 2003, PSU made its run at the title with 11 fencers but fell just shy of the 12-fencer ND squad (182-179; with Ohio State’s 12-fencer contingent fading to fourth at 167).

History also has shown that adding a 12th fencer ultimately can have minimal impact on a team’s overall score. Notre Dame’s 2002 team qualified 11 fencers after the Midwest Regional and added a 12th competitor via an at-large bid, but that fencer contributed just nine wins to the team’s NCAA point total (including an 0-6 combined mark vs. OSU, PSU and SJU). Last season’s NCAAs saw the same scenario play out and ND’s 12th/at-large entry managed just six wins and a 0-6 mark vs. the other three top teams.

Notre Dame’s 11 entries for the 2004 NCAAs – to be held March 25-28 at Brandeis University’s Gosman Center in Waltham, Mass. (opening with the women’s bouts on the 25th and 26th) – include 10 who secured bids after last week’s Midwest Regional, with freshman Amy Orlando then earning one of the nation’s two women’s epee at-large bids into the field (which includes 24 fencers in each weapon).

The top-ranked Notre Dame women’s squad includes the “A Team” – juniors Alicja Kryczalo and Andrea Ament – who again should contend for top spots in a deep women’s foil field that includes 14 returners and eight of 12 All-Americans from the 2003 NCAAs. Kryczalo will be looking for a rare third straight NCAA title and owns a 46-4 all-time record in NCAA Tournament bouts (round-robin, semifinals and finals) while Ament’s 43-7 all-time NCAA record includes finishing second in 2002 and third in ’03.

Notre Dame also boasts a former NCAA champion in senior Kerry Walton, who won the 2002 women’s epee title before placing 5th in 2003.

The second-ranked Notre Dame men’s squad is led by junior epeeist Michael Sobieraj, who reached the 2003 NCAA title bout after posting an All-America 10th-place finish in ’01. His classmate Derek Snyder also is a two-time All-American in foil (7th in ‘0 2, 5th in ’03) while fifth-year Forest Walton is making his return to the NCAAs after placing 14th in the 2000 NCAA foil competition and 9th in ’01.

Orlando certainly will not be along among Notre Dame freshman competitors at the NCAAs, as all four of the team’s sabre qualifiers – Patrick Ghattas, Matthew Stearns, Valerie Providenza and Angela Vincent – are nearing the end of their first season in college fencing.

Notre Dame still could field 12 competitors, if Adjemian is added as an alternate replacement for another fencer who is unable to compete due to injury or illness. Three other Notre Dame fencers – senior women’s sabre Destanie Milo, sophomore foilist Colleen Walsh and freshman foilist Frank Bontempo – also could be added to the field as replacement fencers, but only in place of an ND qualifier who is unable to compete (thus maintaining each team’s maximum of two entries per weapon).

St. John’s owns the nation’s top-ranked men’s program but the SJU women are ranked just 10th and the Red Storm failed to qualify any women’s epeeists. Ohio State is ranked second in the women’s polls and third in the men’s rankings while Penn State is third and fourth, respectively. Columbia checks in at fifth in both polls and has just one entry in women’s epee.

Here’s an advance look at the field, sorted by weapon:

WOMEN’S FOIL – 14 competitors and 8 All-Americans return from the 2003 NCAA field, led by ND juniors Alicja Kryczalo (two-time champ) and Andrea Ament (3rd in ’03, 2nd in ’02) … other ’03 All-Americans in the ’04 field include Ohio State juniors Hannah (8th in ’03, 3rd in ’02) and Metta (5th in ’03 and ’02) Thompson, Penn State sophomore Anna Donath (6th), Princeton’s Jacqueline Leahy (7th) and Northwestern junior Julia Foldi (10th in ’03, 8th in ’02) … other ’03 NCAA competitors in the ’04 field include Stanford’s Eva Petschnigg (13th, also the 2000 NCAA champ while fencing for Princeton), Harvard’s Chloe Stinetorf (12th) and Anne Austin (14th), PSU junior Meredith Chin (15th), Cal State Fullerton’s Senta Breden (17th), Temple’s Jenna Remmert (18th) and M.I.T.’s Susannah Dorfman (21st) – with Penn’s Emanuelle Humblet placing 18th in the ’02 NCAAs … Columbia’s entries include Cassidy Luitjen and Kathleen Reckling while St. John’s has qualified newcomers Amy Delahanty and Erzsebet Garay (Northwestern newcomer Jessica Florendo also adds to the quality of the field).

MEN’S FOIL – 10 competitors and 6 All-Americans return from the 2003 NCAA field, with ND junior Derek Snyder (5th in ’03, 7th in ’02) among a top-heavy group of returners from the ’03 NCAAs that includes SJU’s Nitai Kfir (2nd) and Yale’s Cory Werk (3rd) … other ’03 All-Americans in the ’04 field include Columbia’s Jeremy Sinkin (10th, also 16th in ’02), Stanford’s Florian Reichling (11th in ’03 and ’01) and CSF’s Roland Breden (12th, also 12th in ’02, 13th in ’01) … other ’03 NCAA competitors in the ’04 field include Penn’s Andy Radu (14th), Princeton’s Eric Stodola (18th, also 14th in ’01), OSU senior Nathan Weir (19th, also 15th in ’02) and Rutgers’ Jess Schibilia (19th, also 11th in ’02) … ND fifth-year senior Forest Walton was a 2001 All-American (9th, also 14th in ’00) while PSU junior Ian Schlaepfer placed 8th at the ’02 NCAAs … other competitors of note from the top teams (all NCAA newcomers) include OSU’s Boaz Ellis, PSU junior Jake Clark, SJU’s Henry Kennard and Columbia’s Calvin Chen – while Harvard newcomer Enoch Woodhouse also could make some noise.

WOMEN’S EPEE – 9 competitors and 6 All-Americans return from the 2003 NCAA field, with ND senior Kerry Walton the 2002 champ (also 5th in ’03) … other ’03 All-Americans in the ’04 field include defending champ and PSU sophomore Katarzyma Trzopek, OSU senior Alexandra Shklar (3rd in ’03, 8th in ’02, 6th in ’01), Cornell’s Meghan Phair (6th), Wayne State’s Anna Vinnikov (8th, also 13th in ’02) and Brown’s Ruth Schneider (12th) … other ’03 NCAA competitors in the ’04 field include Northwestern’s Sharon Sullivan (14th), Yale’s Erica Korb (17th, also 14tht in ’02) and M.I.T.’s Lucy Mendal (19th) – plus Jessica Lewis-Turner of host Brandeis (22nd in ’02) and Temple’s Sara Forsythe (15th in ’02, 23rd in ’01) … ND freshman Amy Orlando earned an all-large berth while other entries from top teams include OSU’s Kaela Brendler, PSU freshman Case Szarwark and Columbia’s Alexie Rubin (WSU sophomore Anna Garina also could be a top contender).

MEN’S EPEE – 11 competitors and 6 All-Americans return from the 2003 NCAA field, with ND junior Michal Sobieraj the top returner as the ’03 runner-up (also 10th in ’02) … … other ’03 All-Americans in the ’04 field include Sobieraj’s countryman from Poland and PSU veteran Adam Wiercioch (3rd, also 4th in ’02, 2nd in ’01), Princeton’s Ben Solomon (5th), SJU’s Arpad Horvath (6th, also the ’01 champ) and Harvard’s Julian Rose (7th) and Air Force sophomore Tim French (8th) … other ’03 NCAA competitors in the ’04 field include Johns Hopkins veteran Matthew Bouloubasis (14th, also 22nd in ’02), OSU senior Spencer Jones (15th), Columbia’s William Verigan (17th), Duke’s Nathan Bragg (20th) and Stanford’s Martin Lee (21st) – plus Columbia’s Michael Yablon (13th in ’02) … others from the top teams who will be making their NCAA debut include OSU freshman Denis Tolkachev, PSU sophomore Alex Bruske and SJU’s Benjamin Bratton … WSU’s pair of Poland natives – junior Wojciech Dudek (17th in ’02) and newcomer Marek Petraszek – and Kai Keller of host Brandeis also should add to the deep epee field.

WOMEN’S SABRE – 10 competitors and 6 All-Americans return from the 2003 NCAA field, led by OSU junior Louise Bond-Williams (4th, also 2nd in ’02), the SJU duo of Julia Gelman (2nd, also 3rd in ’02) and Christina Crane (8th, also 5th in ’02), PSU senior Heather Brosnan (3rd, also 6th in ’02 and ’03), Columbia’s Emma Baratta (5th) and Temple’s Aziza Hassan (11th, also 15th in ’02) … other ’03 All-Americans in the ’04 field include OSU sophomore Marquerite Plekhanov (16th), Katherine Zouein of Tufts (17th), Columbia’s Christian Robinson (19th) and Air Force’s Maris Romero (23rd) … many first-time NCAA participants could challenge the veterans, with those rookies including ND freshmen Valerie Providenza and Angela Vincent, PSU freshman Sophia Hiss, the Penn duo of Annika Eiremo and Katelyn Sherry, and ND’s regional rivals Lauren Van Gieson and Mai Van Vu of Northwestern.

MEN’S SABRE – 9 competitors and 5 All-Americans return from the 2003 NCAA field, led by OSU sophomore and ’03 champ Adam Crompton, SJU’s Sergey Isayenko (5th), PSU sophomore Martin Zagunis (8th), Stanford’s Robert Owens (10th, also 11th in ’01) and Columbia’s Paul Reyfman (12th) … other ’03 All-Americans in the ’04 field include NYU’s Andrew Magee (14th), Haverford’s Christan Flanders (15th), N.J. Inst. Of Technology’s Phil Dolata (22nd) and UNC’s Wesley Newkirk (20th in ’03 and ’02) – plus SJU’s Darren Whitmer (6th in ’02) … ND freshmen Patrick Ghattas and Matthew Stearns are among several NCAA newcomers who could contend for top finishers, as are OSU freshman Jason Paul, PSU freshman Ian Farr, Columbia’s Alexander Krul and Benjamin Igoe of Rutgers.