Jan. 21, 2006

Notre Dame’s defending NCAA champion fencing team returns to action this weekend at the NYU Duals (Sunday, Jan. 22; at NYU’s Coles Sport Center), with the Irish set to face five top opponents at the eight-team tournament. The elite field includes the top-three finishers from the 2005 NCAAs – Notre Dame, Ohio State and St. John’s – plus Columbia (5th at ’05 NCAAs), NYU, Wayne State, Northwestern and Yale. The NYU Duals will provide a showcase for some of the top sabre talent in all of college fencing – led by four of the top-seven finishers in men’s sabre at the ’05 NCAAs and six of the top-eight women’s sabre fencers (including all four semifinalist) from the ’05 NCAA field. Even more noteworthy, the tournament reunites the three fencers – ND’s Mariel Zagunis (gold), Yale’s Sada Jacobson (bronze) and Columbia’s Emily Jacobson – who comprised the United States sabre contingent at the 2004 Olympic Games. The first USFCA national poll was released this week and the Irish women are listed No. 1 while the ND men are ranked second (see full poll below).

NYU DUALS SCHEDULE – Here’s a look at Notre Dame’s bout schedule for the NYU Duals (the Irish will not fence Wayne State or Northwestern at this event):

7:30 a.m. – Notre Dame vs. Yale
9:00 a.m. – Notre Dame vs. Columbia
10:30 – Notre Dame vs. NYU
12:30 p.m. – Notre Dame vs. St. John’s
3:30 p.m. – Notre Dame vs. Ohio State

IRISH WOMEN RANKED #1 IN FIRST USFCA POLL – Despite losing three of their six competitors from the 2005 NCAAs (foilists Alicja Kryczalo and Andrea Ament and epeeist Kerry Walton), the Notre Dame women’s fencing team has earned the No. 1 spot in the first U.S. Fencing Coaches Association poll (with the ND men listed No. 2). Notre Dame owns the best combined poll standing, followed by Ohio State (#1 men, #4 women), Penn State (#2 women, #3 men), Columbia (#3 women, #5 men), Harvard (#4 men, #5 women) and St. John’s (#6 men and women). Four of the six teams listed above – ND, OSU, Columbia and SJU – will be in action this week at the NYU Duals, as will Northwestern (#7 women) and Yale (#8 women). Here’s a look at the complete polls:

U.S. Fencing Coaches Association Poll (Jan. 18, 2006)

1. Ohio State
2. Notre Dame
3. Penn State
4. Harvard
5. Columbia
6. St. John’s (NY)
7. Princeton
8. Pennsylvania
9. Stanford
10. Duke
Others receiving votes: Air Force, Rutgers, Brown, NYU, Yale, North Carolina, UC-San Diego, Wayne State (MI), Brandeis, Cleveland State

1. Notre Dame
2. Penn State
3. Columbia-Barnard
4. Ohio State
5. Harvard
6. St. John’s (NY)
7. Northwestern
8. Yale
9. Pennsylvania
9. Princeton
Others receiving votes: Stanford, Wayne State (MI), Temple, Duke, UC-San Diego, Air Force, NYU, Rutgers, North Carolina, Brown

A LOOK AT THE IRISH – Both Notre Dame teams opened the 2005-06 college season by going 6-0 at the Northwestern Duals on Nov. 20, with noteworthy wins for the women’s team over Northwestern (21-6), Stanford (22-5), North Carolina (23-4) and Cal State Fullerton (23-4) while the ND men edged Stanford (15-12) to go along with easier wins over UNC (22-5) and Fullerton (24-3) … the top-ranked ND women won 84% of their bouts (136-26) at Northwestern while the ND men were 125-37 (77%) … the ND women are led by three All-Americans: the sabre tandem of junior Valerie Providenza (’04 NCAA champ, 4th in ’05) and sophomore Mariel Zagunis (’04 Olympic gold medalist, ’05 NCAA runner-up) and two-time epee All-American Amy Orlando (’05 NCAA runner-up) … Zagunis has racked up a 78-4 record in her career bouts with the Irish, including 38-1 (.979) in regular-season action (18-0 at Northwestern) … Providenza was 17-1 at Northwestern and now owns a 103-16 record in regular-season action … Orlando (12-3) pushed her career mark to 97-26 … other top women’s performers at Northwestern included freshman foilists Emilie Prot (16-0) and Adrienne Nott (15-1) and sophomore foilist Melanie Bautista (14-3) … top wins for the ND women in the showdown with Northwestern included freshman epeeists Madeline Stephan and Kim Montoya vs. NCAA veteran Sharon Sullivan, a sweep of highly-touted foil freshman Samantha Nemcheck (5-2 by Nott, 5-4 by Prot and Bautista’s 3-2 OT bout), and victories over All-American Jessica Florendo by Bautista (5-4) and Prot (5-1) … top ND men’s showings at the Northwestern Duals included those by freshman epeeist Karol Kostka (15-1), sophomore epeeist Greg Howard (13-2), junior sabreists Patrick Ghattas (11-2) and Matt Stearns (13-3) and juniors epeeist Aaron Adjemian (14-3) … Ghattas (91-13/.875), Stearns (84-21) and junior foilist Frank Bontempo (94-34) each are nearing their 100th career wins.

MEDIA GUIDE AVAILABLE ONLINE – The award-winning Notre Dame fencing media guide now is available online at und.com (via the right sidebar on the fencing page) … the direct link to the media guide PDFs is: http://und.collegesports.com/sports/c-fenc/spec-rel/0506-fence-media-guide.html … look for the season preview in HTML format soon on und.com, in addition to updated fencer bio’s and a recap of the recent North American Cup action involving several ND fencers.

SABRE SHOWDOWNS SET FOR NYU DUALS – Sunday’s bouts at the NYU Duals likely will feature the nation’s top collection of college sabre talent until the NCAAs return to Houston in mid-March. The men’s field includes eight of the 24 participants from the 2005 NCAAs, led by five All-Americans (top-12) and four of the top-six finishes from the ’05 NCAAs. On the women’s side, eight of the ’05 NCAA participants will be in action – led by seven All-Americans and each of the top-four finishers. The NYU Duals field includes several top newcomers in the sabre field and others such as Yale’s Sada Jacobson (a former NCAA champion and the ’04 Olympic bronze medalist) and Ohio State’s Jason Paul (a ’04 All-American) who did not compete in the ’05 NCAAs. Here’s a look at the elite sabre talent set to be on display at NYU:

* Notre Dame sophomore Mariel Zagunis and the Jacobson sisters – Sada (a senior at Yale) and Emily (a sophomore at Columbia) – highlight this weekend’s sabre participants. Those three fencers are longtime teammates with the U.S. national team program and competed at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, with Zagunis winning the gold medal and Sada Jacobson claiming the bronze. Zagunis lost just four bouts in college competition during her freshman season, with three of those losses coming vs. Emily Jacobson (3-5 at the NYU Duals, 1-5 in the NCAA round-robin and 11-15 in the NCAA final). The elder Jacobson sister (Sada) won the 2001 and ’02 NCAA titles, did not compete collegiately in ’03 and ’04 and then failed to qualify for the ’05 NCAAs due to not fencing enough college bouts. She currently is the top-rated women’s sabre fencer in the USFA rankings (#2 in the world) while Zagunis is 5th in the world (3rd U.S.) and Emily Jacobson holds a #24 world ranking (#5 U.S.).

* In addition to Zagunis and Emily Jacobson, the other top women’s sabre talent set to converge on the NYU Duals includes: Ohio State sophomore and Ireland native Siobahn Byrne (3rd at ’05 NCAAs), ND junior Valerie Providenza (4th at ’05 NCAAs/2nd in round-robin; ’04 NCAA champ), OSU sophomore Amelia Galliard (7th at ’05 NCAAs), Columbia senior and three-time All-American Emma Baratta (8th at ’05 NCAAs), and Kasia Wiernoski of St. John’s (12th at ’05 NCAAs). Yale veteran Carly Guss also competed at the ’05 NCAAs, placing 21st. The NYU Duals feature seven fencers currently listed among the USFA top-10 in the women’s sabre rankings: Yale sixth-year senior Sada Jacobson (2nd), Zagunis (3rd), Columbia sophomore Emily Jacobson (5th), Baratta (6th), Providenza (7th), Galliard (8th) and another OSU sophomore, Eileen Grench (10th).

* The men’s sabre field at the NYU Duals is not as deep as the women’s competitors but it does feature five 2005 All-Americans: ND junior Patrick Ghattas (’05 NCAA runner-up, 10th in ’04), OSU senior and three-time All-American Jason Rogers (5th at ’05 NCAAs; member of U.S. ’04 Olympic team), Columbia’s Alex Krul (6th at ’05 NCAAs), OSU senior and two-time NCAA champ Adam Crompton (7th at ’05 NCAAs) and ND junior Matt Stearns (10th at ’05 NCAAs). Three others – NYU’s Andrew Magee (14th), SJU’s Nijmy Cadet (17th) and Yale’s Christopher Peterson (20th) – also competed at the ’05 NCAAs. Rogers (#1), Crompton (#4), Ghattas (#9) and Krul (#14) each are listed among the top men’s sabre fencers in the USFA rankings – as are OSU freshman Mike Montselidze (#7) and SJU’s Luther Clement (#8), a transfer from Columbia.

SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS – Here’s a look inside Notre Dame’s five big matchups this weekend at the NYU Duals:

ND vs. Yale – These teams did not face each other in ’05, as Yale was unable to reach the NYU Duals due to rough weether conditions … ND returns seven competitors (six All-Americans) from its 2005 NCAA championship squad: junior sabre fencers Mariel Zagunis (1st), Patrick Ghattas (2nd), Valerie Providenza (4th) and Matt Stearns (10th), junior epeeists Amy Orlando (2nd) and Aaron Adjemian (24th) and sophomore foilist Jakub Jedrkowiak (7th) … ND junior foilist Frank Bontempo and junior sabre Angela Vincent also have NCAA Tournament experience, competing at the ’04 event … Yale placed just 17th at the ’05 NCAAs, after qualifying fencers in only three of the six weapons … top returners for the Bulldogs include: two-time NCAA women’s sabre champion and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Sada Jacobson, the women’s foil tandem of sophomore Diana Schawlowski (16th at ’05 NCAAs) and junior Alisa Mendelsohn (19th), senior sabreist Carly Guss (21st), senior foilist Cory Werk (the ’04 NCAA runner-up) and junior sabre fencer Chris Peterson (20th at ’05 NCAAs) … freshman epeeist Michael Pearce is off to a strong start in his college fencing career … the Yale women have posted noteworthy wins over St. John’s (15-12) and NYU (18-9) but the men lost to those teams (9-18 vs. SJU, 10-17 vs. NYU).

ND vs. Columbia – These teams have waged some spirited battles at the NYU Duals in recent years, including a split of 16-11 scores at the 2005 event (win for the ND men and Columbia women) … the Irish men edged Columbia 14-13 at the ’04 NYU Duals, with Patrick Ghattas rallying from a 3-0 deficit to beat Alex Krul in the decisive sabre bout (5-3) … Columbia had a solid 5th-place showing at the ’05 NCAAs and returns seven of its 10 competitors from that NCAA squad … top returners for Columbia include: the sabre tandem of sophomore Emily Jacobson (’05 NCAA champ and U.S. national-team member) and senior three-time All-American Emma Barratta (8th at ’05 NCAAs), sophomore epeeist Morgan Midgley (3rd at ’05 NCAAs), junior epeeist Cassidy Luitjen (11th), junior sabre standout Krul (6th) and junior foilist Scott Sugimoto (6th) … senior epee veteran Bill Verigan also returns after competing in the ’05 NCAAs (23rd) … the Lions will be looking to overcome the absence of epeeist Alexie Rubin (12th at ’05 NCAAs), who is studying overseas … Columbia’s other losses from the ’05 NCAA team include sabre fencer Paul Reyfman (9th) and foilist Jeremy Sinkin (15th) … the Columbia women are looking to get key contributions from senior sabreist Christian Robinson, junior foilist Kathleen Reckling, sophomore foilist Magda Losonczy and junior epeeist Rachel Rowe while the men look for a boost from senior foilist Luka Lazia and sabre fencers such as junior James Williams and sophomore Alex Diacou (brother of ND senior Nicholas Diacou).

ND vs. NYU – The Violets return all six of their fencers from the group that finished 9th at the 2005 NCAAs: the foil tandem of senior Gabe Sinkin (’05 NCAA runner-up) and sophomore Alexander Kao (17th), sophomore epeeist Phil Andrews (19th), senior Andew Magee in sabre (14th), and the epee pair of junior Lauren Willock (8th) and senior Jean Goto (17th) … senior Kristin Wentrcek and junior Dmitri Apostol could provide a boost to their respective foil squads … the NYU men already have faced some top teams, beating Yale (17-10) and losing to Penn State (3-24) and Princeton (9-18) while the NYU women dropped an 18-9 match to Yale … ND swept the Violets at the 2004 NYU Duals (22-5 by the women, 16-11 for the men).

ND vs. St. John’s – These teams did not meet at the ’04 NYU Duals but have plenty of past history at the event, including a 2002 men’s matchup that came down to the final bout (ND’s Michal Sobieraj edged SJU’s Arpad Horvath, 3-2 in overtime, for the 14-13 final score in a matchup of future NCAA epee champions) … the Red Storm were the only team to qualify the maximum 12 fencers for the ’05 NCAAs but five of those fencers have departed, including: ’05 NCAA sabre champ Sergey Isayenko, former NCAA foil champ Horvath (5th in ’05), the foil tandem of Nitai Kfir (5th) and Henry Kennard (13th) and women’s sabre All-American Christina Crane (10th) … the only men’s fencers returning from SJU’s ’05 NCAA team are junior epeeist Benjamin Bratton (10th in ’05; ’04 NCAA runner-up) and junior sabreist Nijmy Cadet (17th) … SJU’s five women’s fencers who are back from the ’05 NCAAs include three All-Americans: junior foilist Erzberet Garay (4th at ’05 NCAAs), sophomore epeeist Joanna Guy (10th) and senior Kasia Wiernoski in sabre (12th) … other ’05 NCAA returners include sophomore foilist Katia Larchanks (13th) and sophomore epeeist Reka Szele (13th) … SJU will be hoping for a boost in men’s epee from freshman Stanley Vaksman and junior Adam Rodney while others who could fill expanded roles include sophomore sabre standout Luther Clement (a transfer from Columbia), sophomore women’s foilist Chenzi Zhang and freshman sabreists Olga Outchinnkava and Elizabeth Gray … the SJU women dropped a 15-12 match to Yale at the recent Brandeis Invitational while the men topped Yale (19-8).

ND vs. Ohio State – This competition should be intense as always, with the Midwest rivals representing the past two NCAA team champions and the programs that battled to the wire in deciding ND’s 2005 title … the ND men lost twice to OSU in the ’05 regular season (11-16, at the NYU and ND Duals) while the Irish women bounced back from a 14-13 loss to OSU at the ’05 NYU Duals by besting the Buckeyes at the ND Duals (16-11) … like the Irish, OSU’s biggest losses are in women’s foil – as four-time All-Americans and twin sisters Hanna (6th at ’05 NCAAs) and Metta (10th) Thompson have moved on to graduation … OSU still returns nine members of its ’05 NCAA runner-up squad, led on the men’s side by two-time NCAA men’s foil champ Boaz Ellis, three-time All-America sabreist Adam Crompton (two-time NCAA champ, 7th in ’05), his fellow senior sabre standout and 2004 U.S. Olympian Jason Rogers (5th at ’05 NCAAs) and junior epeeist Denis Tolkachev (4th at ’05 NCAAs, 3rd in ’04) … other NCAA men’s veterans for OSU include junior foilist Christian Rivera (12th) and sophomore foilist Will Jeter (14th) … OSU has plenty of options at women’s sabre, led by sophomores Siobahn Byrne (3rd at ’05 NCAAs), Amelia Galliard (7th) and Eileen Grench (#10 in USFA rankings) … junior epeeist Kaela Brendler (5th at ’05 NCAAs) also returns, as does senior epeeist Marguerite Plekhanov (a converted sabre fencer who competed in that weapon at the ’03 and ’04 NCAAs) … OSU has several others who could step into greater roles, including: freshmen foilists Andras Horanyi (#4 in USFA rankings) and Dmitri Kirk-Gordon (#26), freshman sabre Mike Montselidze (#7), junior sabre Jason Paul (#28; All-American at ’04 NCAAs), senior foilist Alexandra DiCerbo, sophomore foilist Byrony Beard, freshman foilist Allison Rush, sophomore epeeists Olga Obrazcova (injured in ’05) and Leslie Lampman, and junior sabre veteran Syvenna Siebert.