Feb. 25, 2018
By Joanne Norell
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The University of Notre Dame men’s fencing team boasted two individual champions and six medalists on Sunday’s final day of competition at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships at Carmichael Arena.
Senior sabreur Jonah Shainberg won his second ACC championship in three seasons, winning a thrilling championship bout over reigning champ Pascual Di Tella of Duke. Freshman foilist Nick Itkin snared his first conference crown, defeating Duke’s Eoin Gronningsater in the final.
The top-ranked Irish women took second place in the team event, with a three-way tie between Notre Dame, Duke and North Carolina giving way to a fence-off that saw North Carolina win its first ACC women’s title.
How It Happened
Men’s Individual Championships
The Irish advanced two fencers to the semifinals in all three weapons, taking the No. 2 and 3 seeds in each. In foil, Itkin finished pool play with an 11-3 record and a +34 indicator, while junior Axel Kiefer was also 11-3 with a +33 indicator. In epee, junior Dylan French was the second seed at 9-4 with a +20 indicator, while sophomore Ariel Simmons followed at 9-4 with a +17 indicator. In sabre, seniors Shainberg (12-2) and Jonathan Fitzgerald (9-5) also advanced to face each other.
After trading touches through the first half of the match, Shainberg pulled away to defeat Fitzgerald 15-11 and advance to his fourth ACC title bout in as many years. For the second straight season, Shainberg met Di Tella, but after taking second in 2017, Shainberg came out the winner as a senior.
After Shainberg built an 11-5 lead, Di Tella marched back to tie the match at 12 before taking a 13-12 edge. In a fast-paced finish, Shainberg scored three of the last five touches en route to a dramatic 15-14 victory. It was the Irish captain’s second ACC Championship, having also captured the crown as a sophomore in 2016.
Fitzgerald finished third, defeating North Carolina’s Matthew Garrelick 15-8 in the consolation bout.
In foil, Itkin — the current No. 1 ranked junior and No. 6 ranked senior in the country — built an early cushion and held the advantage to defeat Kiefer 15-12. Itkin advanced to face Duke’s top-seeded Eoin Gronningsater in the championship.
In a back-and-forth battle, Itkin fell behind 4-8 before rattling off five straight touches to take the lead. Itkin and Gronningsater traded touches until 10-10, but the Irish rookie pulled away for a 15-11 victory and his first conference title.
Kiefer took the bronze, defeating Duke’s Brycen Rushing 15-13 in consolation play.
Notre Dame’s men’s epee semifinal followed the same script as sabre, with French and Simmons staying even early before anyone pulled away. That was Simmons, who went on to win 15-12 and advance to his second straight conference championship bout, facing Duke’s Bryn Hammarberg. The fourth-seeded Blue Devil pulled away in the second period and went on to win 15-11 as Simmons finished in second place for his second All-ACC honor.
Women’s Team Championship
Fresh off a domination of the field in Saturday’s individual tournament, the Irish women returned to the strip Sunday and rolled to the team title. In a 24-3 victory over Boston College in the first round, all three weapons groups went 8-1, with Julia Barry and Amanda Sirico going 3-0 in epee, Stefani Deschner and Morgan Partridge posting 3-0 marks in foil and Francesca Russo going 3-0 in sabre. Tara Hassett was also unbeaten against the Eagles at 2-0 in sabre, while Claudia Kulmacz was 1-0.
The Irish took control of first place after round two, defeating North Carolina 21-6 after the Tar Heels defeated Duke in the first round and Duke beat Boston College in the second. Foil went 9-0 against UNC thanks to Kleiner, Partridge and junior Sabrina Massialas, who competed for the first time this weekend. Russo and Kulmacz were also 3-0 against the Tar Heels in sabre, while Sirico also went 3-0 in epee.
But like the men’s team competition Saturday, the Irish ran into a motivated Duke squad in the third round and though the Irish won the foil category 5-4, the Blue Devils snuck out with a 15-12 win, forcing a three-team fence-off between Notre Dame, Duke and North Carolina, who all finished the round robin 2-1.
By virtue of their No. 1 seed, the Irish received a bye as Duke and North Carolina faced off in a best-two-out-of-three weapon tiebreaker, with the Tar Heels winning in epee and sabre to advance 2-1.
Massialas, Russo and Sirico took the strip for Notre Dame in the fence-off. Massialas gave the Irish the early advantage, defeating Carlexa Fevry 5-2 in foil, but the Tar Heels came back. Georgina Summers, who fell to Sirico in Saturday’s individual title bout, this time defeated the Irish champion 5-2. In sabre, Russo came back from 2-4 to tie it 4-all against Jacqueline Litynski, but the Tar Heel was credited with the final touch to secure North Carolina’s first women’s conference fencing title.
ACC Fencing Championships
February 24-25, 2018
Chapel Hill, N.C.
Men’s Individual Championships
 Jonah Shainberg (ND) def.  Jonathan Fitzgerald (ND) 15-11
 Jonah Shainberg (ND) def.  Pascual Di Tella (DUKE) 15-14
 Jonathan Fitzgerald (ND) def.  Matthew Garrelick (UNC) 15-8
 Nick Itkin (ND) def.  Axel Kiefer (ND) 15-11
 Nick Itkin (ND) def.  Eoin Gronningsater (DUKE) 15-11
 Axel Kiefer (ND) def.  Brycen Rushing (DUKE) 15-13
 Ariel Simmons (ND) def.  Dylan French (ND) 15-12
 Bryn Hammarberg (DUKE) def.  Ariel Simmons (ND) 15-11
 Dylan French (ND) def.  Amit Sarma (DUKE) 15-6
Women’s Team Championship
No. 1 Notre Dame 24, Boston College 3
Epee (8-1): Julia Barry 3-0, Amanda Sirico 3-0, Marie-Anne Roche 2-1
Foil (8-1): Stefani Deschner 3-0, Morgan Partridge 3-0, Elyssa Kleiner 2-1
Sabre (8-1): Francesca Russo 3-0, Tara Hassett 2-0, Reghan Ward 2-1, Claudia Kulmacz 1-0
No. 1 Notre Dame 21, North Carolina 6
Epee (6-3): Sirico 3-0, Roche 2-1, Barry 1-2
Foil (9-0): Kleiner 3-0, Sabrina Massialas 3-0, Partridge 3-0
Sabre (6-3): Kulmacz 3-0, Russo 3-0, Ward 0-2, Hassett 0-1
No. 9 Duke 15, No. 1 Notre Dame 12
Epee (4-5): Sirico 3-0, Roche 1-1, Dasha Yefremenko 0-1, Barry 0-3
Foil (5-4): Deschner 3-0, Kleiner 1-1, Partridge 1-2, Massialas 0-1
Sabre (3-6): Kulmacz 1-2, Russo 1-2, Ward 1-2
Notre Dame, bye
North Carolina 2, Duke 1
North Carolina 2, Notre Dame 1
Sabre: Jacqueline Litynski (UNC) def. Francesca Russo (ND) 5-4
Foil: Sabrina Massialas (ND) def. Carlexa Fevry (UNC) 5-2
Epee: Georgina Summers (UNC) def. Amanda Sirico (ND) 5-2
The Irish will return to action at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships on Saturday, March 20, at Cleveland State University.
— ND —
Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2014 and coordinates communications efforts for the Notre Dame men’s tennis and fencing programs, in addition to assisting with football communications and overseeing production of the football Gameday Magazine. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University and earned her master’s degree from Georgetown University in 2013.