Mariel Zagunis defeated Columbia's Emily Jacobson, 15-8, in a rematch of the NCAA sabre final (photos by Aaron Sprecher).

Zagunis Wins NCAA Sabre Title As Notre Dame Moves Into Second Place (full recap)

March 17, 2006

HOUSTON – Notre Dame sophomore Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) claimed the 2006 NCAA women’s sabre title, defeating fellow U.S. National Team member Emily Jacobson in a rematch of the 2005 NCAA final. Zagunis posted a comfortable 15-8 win over Jacobson, just moments after rallying versus another Columbia fencer, Emma Baratta (15-14, after trailing 12-6). Notre Dame moved up to second in the team standings but still trails Penn State by 10 points, heading into the two days of men’s bouts.

(Note: additional photos from the women’s bouts will be posted later on – as will quotes from Zagunis, Nott, Stephan and the Irish coaches.)

Penn State leads the four-day tournament after winning 93 of its 138 women’s bouts, followed by Notre Dame (83), Harvard (82), Columbia (80) and St. John’s (79). PSU, ND and Harvard each have the full allotment of six fencers for the men’s competition while Columbia and SJU have just five. Ohio State has six men’s fencers in the field but qualified just three women and currently stands in eighth place overall with 45 points.


Madeleine Stephan’s 6th-place NCAA finish is the second-best ever by a Notre Dame freshman women’s epeeist.



Zagunis – the 2004 Olympic gold medalist and ’05 NCAA runner-up – went 17-6 in the round-robin phase (6-3 on Friday) and tied for fourth, advancing to the semifinals by virtue of her +43 total-point indicators (PSU’s Sophie Hiss, the ’04 runner-up, was +31). Two Notre Dame freshmen had impressive sixth-place finishes in their respective weapons, with Adi Nott going 15-8 in foil (6-3 on Friday) while Madeleine Stephan was 14-9 in epee (5-4 on Friday). Nott finished one win out of the semifinals.

Junior Valerie Providenza – the ’04 NCAA champ and a semifinalist in ’05 – tied for 7th (15-8) but finished 9th based on her +24 indicators (OSU’s Siobhan Byrne was +30 and Stanford’s Eva Jellison +27). Providenza had the best record on Friday of any Notre Dame fencer, going 7-2.

Sophomore foilist Melanie Bautista (14th; 11-12) and junior epeeist Amy Orlando (15th; 11-12, 5-4 on Friday) rounded out the Notre Dame contingent, with Bautista unable to complete her final two bouts due to injury (4-4 on Friday).

The Notre Dame men – led by All-America sabreists Patrick Ghattas (the ’05 runner-up) and Matt Stearns and All-America foilist Jakub Jedrkowiak – take to the strips on Saturday with 14 bouts for each fencer. The Irish will face OSU in all three weapons and PSU in epee and sabre, with another tough challenge on tap for Saturday versus Columbia in foil.

Notre Dame’s other entrants include junior epeeist Aaron Adjemian and two freshmen – epeeist Karol Kostka and foilist Mark Kubik, a native of nearby San Antonio.

Jacobson had defeated PSU’s Caitlin Thompson (an Oregon Fencing Alliance club teammate of Zagunis and Providenza) in a 15-13 semifinal, with Baratta then topping Thompson in the third-place bout (15-14). Baratta and Jacobson both won 19 bouts in the round-robin while Thompson was 18-5.

Top finishers in the women’s epee included (in order after the medal round): PSU’s Katarzyna Trzopek (16 round-robin wins), Wayne State’s Anna Garina (22), OSU’s Kaela Brendler (16), WSU’s Justyna Konczalska (17) and Princeton’s Erin McGarry (15). Trzopek also was the ’03 champion while Garina won in ’04 and ’05 (when Orlando was the runner-up).

Erzsberet Garay of St. John’s (19) claimed the foil crown, followed by Princeton’s Jacqueline Leahy (18), Harvard’s Emily Cross (20), PSU’s Anna Donath (16) and Northwestern’s Jessica Florendo (16). Cross failed to repeat after winning the title in 2005, ending former ND standout Alicja Kryczalo’s string of three straight NCAA titles.

Here are additional notes on the women’s competition:

SHOWDOWN SERIES – The ND women had a winning record (25-23) vs. fencers from the other four contenders (10-6 in sabre, 9-7 in epee, 6-10 in foil), led by a 9-3 mark vs. Harvard and 6-6 vs. SJU (also 5-7 vs. both PSU and Columbia) … if that record vs. PSU had been reversed, the Irish would be trailing the Lions by only six points … the sabreists went 4-0 vs. Harvard, 3-1 vs. SJU, 2-2 vs. PSU and 1-3 vs. Columbia … the foilists were 2-2 vs. PSU, Harvard and Columbia (0-4 vs. SJU) … the epeeists went 3-1 vs. Harvard and SJU, 2-2 vs. Columbia and 1-3 vs. PSU … top individual records vs. the contenders included Zagunis (6-2) and Orlando (5-3), with Providenza, Nott and Stephan each splitting their eight key bouts.


Amy Orlando registered several key wins over fencers from the other top contending teams.



TIGHT BOUTS – The Irish women also finished +5 in one-touch bouts (16-11; 5-4 in OT), led by Providenza’s 4-0 record in close decisions … Orlando fenced nearly half of the team’s one-touch bouts, going 6-5 (4-3 in OT).

JOIN THE CLUB – Zagunis and her Oregon Fencing Alliance club teammate Providenza now have combined to win two of the past three NCAA women’s sabre titles … no other school has produced two different winners of the sabre title (since the NCAAs began featuring women’s sabre, in 2000).

PATH TO THE TITLE – The semifinals and final bout in women’s sabre saw Zagunis knock off Columbia’s pair, who each had gone 19-4 in the round-robin … Baratta – who had beaten Zagunis 5-1 in the round-robin – jumped out to 4-0 lead in the semifinal, stretched to 6-1 and then led 8-5 at the break … the lead grew to 12-6 but Zagunis won the next three points before Baratta went up 13-9 … Zagunis then answered with a four-point flurry to suddenly tie the bout, 13-13 … Baratta scored her 14th point on a parry-riposte, as did Zagunis seconds later, and the winning touch came on a straight attack after Baratta briefly hesitated on her own attack … the final bout did not produce nearly as much drama, as Zagunis jumped out to an 8-3 lead before winning the title-bout rematch (15-8) … Zagunis also had bested Jacobson (her U.S. National teammate) in the round-robin, 5-3.

TRADING TOUCHES – Zagunis entered the 2006 NCAAs having lost just a handful of bouts in two years of college competition but she had been 0-4 vs. her friend and fellow U.S. National Team standout Emily Jacobson … the Olympians previous meetings in college bouts saw Jacobson win twice at the ’05 NCAAs (5-1 round-robin, 15-11 final) and twice at the NYU Duals (5-3 in both ’05 and ’06) … that trend tipped in the favor of Zagunis this week, as she posted a 5-3 win over Jacobson in Thursday’s round-robin before the 15-8 win in the title bout.

TOP-O-THE-PODIUM – The past five years now have seen Notre Dame fencers combine to win seven NCAA titles (in four different weapons), the most from any team in that five-year stretch … the Irish also have produced at least one individual champion in each of the past five NCAAs (and six of the past seven, all but ’01) … SJU has produced five NCAA weapon titles in the past five years (’02-’06), followed by OSU (4), PSU (4) and Wayne State (2), plus singles titles for Yale, Air Force, Rutgers, Harvard and Columbia … ND is the only team to win NCAA titles in more than three weapons from ’02-’06 (SJU has titles in three weapons during that span, OSU and PSU in two each) … women’s sabre is the only weapon that has featured five different champions in the past five years … the ND fencing program produced just three NCAA individual champions from ’91-’99 but Irish fencers now have combined for seven first-place medals in the current decade (’00-’06, including men’s sabre Gabor Szelle in 2000) … here’s the breakdown of the NCAA champions for ’02-’06:

Women’s Foil – Alicja Kryczalo (ND, ’02-’04), Emily Cross (Harvard, ’05), Erzsebet Garay (SJU, ’06)
Women’s Epee – Kerry Walton (ND, ’02), Katarzyna Trzopek (PSU, ’03 and ’06), Anna Garina (WSU, ’04-’05)
Women’s Sabre – Sada Jacobson (Yale, ’02), Alexis Jemal (RU, ’03), Valerie Providenza (ND, ’04), Emily Jacobson (COL, ’05), Mariel Zagunis (ND, ’06)
Men’s Foil – Non Panchan (PSU, ’02-’03), Boaz Ellis (OSU, ’04-’05)
Men’s Epee – Arpad Horvath (SJU ’02, ’04), Seth Kelsey (AFA, ’03), Michal Sobieraj (ND, ’05)
Men’s Sabre – Ivan Lee (SJU, ’02), Adam Crompton (OSU, ’03-’04), Sergey Isayenko (SJU, ’05)

KEY WINS, KEY MARGINS – Zagunis nearly did not even reach the semifinals, after tying for 4th with a 17-6 record in the round-robin … PSU’s Hiss had the same mark but Zagunis had the clear edge in total-point indicators (+43, to +31 for Hiss) … a 5-2 win over Hiss on Friday essentially helped send Zagunis on to the title … she also scored key wins over OSU’s Siobhan Byrne (5-3) and Stanford’s Eva Jellison (5-4) … Zagunis now is 9-0 in college bouts vs. Byrne while the win over Hiss avenged a loss from the ’05 NCAAs (she also had suffered a rare regular-season loss to Jellison at the ’06 UCSD Duals).

ALL-TIME NOTRE DAME NCAA CHAMPIONS – Zagunis is the 22nd ND fencer to win an NCAA title, with that group now including 10 women’s fencing titles (six in foil, two in sabre, two in epee) … the 12 NCAA titles by ND men’s fencers have included five in epee, four in sabre and three in foil:

Notre Dame NCAA Fencing Individual Champions
Don Tadrowski (men’s epee; 1955; Jr.)
Pat Gerard (men’s foil; 1977; Jr.)
Mike Sullivan (men’s sabre; 1977; So.)
Bjorn Vaggo (men’s epee; 1978; Fr.)
Mike Sullivan (men’s sabrre; 1978; Jr.)
Andy Bonk (men’s foil; 1979; Jr.)
Ola Harstrom (men’s epee; 1983; Jr.)
Charles Higgs-Coulthard (men’s foil; 1984; Fr.)
Molly Sullivan (women’s foil ; 1986; So.)
Molly Sullivan (women’s foil ; 1988; Sr.)
Jubba Beshin (men’s epee; 1990; So.)
Holly Piper (women’s foil; 1991; Jr.)
Magda Krol (women’s epee; 1997; Fr.)
Luke La Valle (men’s sabre; 1998; Jr.)
Gabor Szelle (men’s sabre; 2000; So.)
Alicja Kryczalo (women’s foil; 2002; Fr.)
Kerry Walton (women’s epee; 2002; So.)
Alicja Kryczalo (women’s foil; 2003; Jr.)
Alicja Kryczalo (women’s foil; 2004; Jr.)
Valerie Providenza (women’s sabre; 2004; Fr.)
Michal Sobieraj (men’s epee 2005; Sr.)
Mariel Zagunis (women’s sabre; 2006; So.)


Mariel Zagunis became the 22nd Notre Dame fencer to win an NCAA individual title.



EARLY ELITE – Notre Dame fencers now have won the NCAA title as freshmen (5) or sophomores (7) 12 times, more than the combined titles by ND juniors (8) and seniors (2).

RISING TO THE TOP – Zagunis now owns a 38-8 record in NCAA round-robin bouts, yielding a .826 win pct. that ranks 4th all-time in ND women’s fencing history behind foilists Molly Sullivan (.915; 54-5), Alicja Kryczalo (.913; 84-8) and Sara Walsh (.870; 80-12).

INDICATOR OF EXCELLENCE – Two trips to the NCAAs for Zagunis have yielded a margin of +109 in total-point indicators, spanning 46 five-touch bouts in the round-robin format … her +66 in the ’05 NCAAs was second-best among all 144 entrants (men and women) … just eight of the 71 other women’s competitors at the ’06 NCAAs finished with a better indicator score: SJU foilist Garay (+66),Harvard foilist Cross (+60), PSU sabreist Thompson (+51), WSU epeeist Garina (+50), Columbia sabreists Baratta (+48) and Jacobson (+46) and Princeton foilist Leahy (+47).

A STRONG CLOSER – Providenza showed her veteran toughness by closing on Friday with a 7-2 record, including two more one-touch wins (she was 4-0 overall in those close bouts) … a rematch of the 2004 NCAA title bout saw PSU’s Hiss jump out to a 4-1 lead but Providenza won the next three points, followed by two simultaneous attacks and then the winning touch for Providenza (now 4-1 in college bouts vs. Hiss) … other key wins for Providenza on Friday came vs. OSU’s Eileen Grench (5-3), Stanford’s Jellison (5-1) and Wayne State’s Katarzyna Kuziak (5-4) … she now is 4-4 in college bouts vs. Grench (including a 15-3 quarterfinal win in the recent Regional) and had split a pair of bouts earlier this season vs. Jellison.

BATTLING THROUGH – Nearly half of Orlando’s bouts (11 of 23) were decided by one touch (6-5) … the two-time All-American delivered several key wins (5-3 vs. the contenders), including Friday bouts vs. Columbia’s Rachel Rowe (5-2) and the SJU tandem of Reka Szele and Joanna Guy (both 2-1, OT bouts) … Orlando had lost to Rowe at the past two NYU Duals while reprising her sweeps of the SJU fencers from the ’05 NCAAs and the ’06 NYU Duals.


Valerie Providenza posted a team-best 7-2 record in Friday’s bouts.



FANTASTIC FROSH – This marks the second straight year that two ND freshmen have posted top finishes at the NCAAs (Zagunis was the ’05 runner-up while men’s foilist Jakub Jedrkowiak placed 7th) … with their 6th-place finishes, Nott and Stephan became two of 23 all-time ND freshman fencers (men and women, including Zagunis and Providenza) to finish 6th or higher at the NCAAs, with that group including six men’s foilits, five men’s foilists, four men’s epeeists and sabreists, and two women’s sabreists and epeeists … 1997 NCAA champ Magda Krol is the only ND freshman ever to finish higher than Stephan in the NCAA women’s epee competition … in addition to ’05 and ’06, just two previous years have seen multiple ND freshmen finish sixth or higher at the NCAAs (three in ’96, two in ’00):

Top NCAA Finishes by Notre Dame Freshmen
1st – Bjorn Vaggo (epee, ’78), Charles Higgs-Coulthard (foil, `84), Magda Krol (epee, ’97), Alicja Kryczalo (foil, ’02 foil), Valerie Providenza (sabre, ’04)
2nd – Yehuda Kovacs (foil, ’86), Sara Walsh (foil, ’96), Gabor Szelle (sabre, ’99), Ozren Debic (foil, ’00), Andrea Ament (foil, ’02), Mariel Zaguis (sabre, ’05)
3rd – Mike Sullivan (sabre, ’76), Noel Young (foil, ’90), Jan Viviani (epee, ’00)
4th – Leszek Nowosielski (sabre, ’88), Luke La Valle (sabre, ’96)
5th – Molly Sullivan (foil, ’85), Jeremy Siek (foil, ’94)
6th – Ed Fellows (epee, ’74), Carl Jackson (epee, ’95), Myriah Brown (foil, ’96), Adrienne Nott (foil, ’06), Madeleine Stephan (epee, ’06)

COOL UNDER PRESSURE – Stephan and Nott proved up to the challenge of their first NCAA tournament … Nott closed Friday with a 6-3 record that included wins over Columbia’s Kelsey Finkel (5-0) and the eventual runner-up Leahy of Princeton (5-2) … she had lost to Finkel earlier this year at the NYU Duals (1-5) … Stephan’s 5-4 record on Friday included key wins over Rowe (5-3), PSU’s Case Szarwark (5-0) and SJU’s Joanna Guy (5-3) … Stephan did not face Rowe at NYU but was edged by Guy at that meet (4-5).


Valerie Providenza now owns a 52-16 career record in NCAA round-robin bouts.



ADDITIONAL SABRE NOTES – Zagunis also posted Friday wins over UNC’s Jennifer Kling (5-0) and the Northwestern duo of Mai Van Vu (5-1) and Emily Pasternak (5-0 … her losses came vs. OSU’s Grench (3-5), PSU’s Thompson (2-5) and Wayne State’s Kuzniak (4-5; led 3-1) … she finished with a strong 6-2 record vs. fencers from the contending teams (2-0 vs. Harvard and SJU, 1-1 vs. PSU and Columbia) while spitting four one-touch bouts (1-1 on Friday) … Providenza’s other Friday wins came vs. Kling (5-1), Pasternak (5-2) and Vu (5-2), with the lone losses to Byrne (3-5) and Thompson (1-5) … she split her eight bouts vs. the contenders (2-0 vs. Harvard, 1-1 vs. PSU and SJU, 0-2 vs. Columbia) … Providenza now is 52-16 all-time in NCAA round-robin bouts (.765; +68), good for the 9th-most NCAA wins in ND women’s fencing history (8th-best pct.; 2nd among sabreists) … Duke’s Ibtihaj Muhammad placed 6th with 16 wins.

ADDITIONAL EPEE NOTES – Stephan’s other Friday wins came vs. Brown’s Ruth Schneider (5-2) and NYU’s Jean Goto (5-3), with losses to Columbia’s Morgan Midgley (4-5), PSU’s Trzopek (2-5), Princeton’s McGarry (4-5) and SJU’s Szele (1-5) … she split her eight bouts vs. fencers from the contending teams (1-1 vs. each) and went 2-4 overall in one-touch bouts (0-2 on Friday) … Orlando’s other wins came vs. Schneider (5-3) and Goto (5-1), with losses to Midgley (3-5), Trzopek (1-5), PSU’s Szarwark (2-5) and McGarry (1-2, OT) … McGarry tied the bout with 48 seconds left and Orlando had the tiebreaker priority in OT (McGarry scored the winning touch with 0:19 left) … Orlando ended the two days with a 5-3 record vs. the top contenders (2-0 vs. Harvard and SJU, 1-1 vs. Columbia, 0-2 vs. PSU) and was 6-5 overall in one-touch bouts (4-3 in OT) … her career record in the NCAA round-robin now stands at 40-29 (.580, +3).


Madeleine Stephan joined foilist Adi Nott in posting impressive showings by the freshman fencers.



ADDITIONAL FOIL NOTES – Nott’s other wins on Friday came vs. Christine Lee of Tufts (5-2), Princeton’s Sara Jew-Lim (5-2), Temple’s Nina Gernes (5-1) and NYU’s Kristn Wentrcek (5-0) … her final losses were vs. Columbia’s Kathleen Reckling (3-5), Princeton’s Ilana Sinkin (2-5) and Temple’s Jenna Remmert (1-5) … Nott had a winning record vs. fencers from the contending teams (5-3; 2-0 vs. Harvard, 1-1 vs. PSU and Columbia, 0-2 vs. SJU) and won her only one-touch bout … Bautista’s other wins on Friday came vs. Columbia’s Finkel (4-3 on a near-simultaneous attack; reversing their result from the NYU Duals), Lee (5-2), Jew-Lim (5-2) and Sinkin (5-3) … she dropped bouts to Reckling (1-4) and Leahy (0-5) before the final-round sequence that was affected by the injury … in the bout with Remmert, Bautista scored a touch to take the 4-3 lead but Remmert’s nearly-simultaneous lunge led to an accidental collision (Remmert was not given a second yellow card, which would have resulted in a 5-3 win for Bautista) … Bautista took the full 10 minutes to recover but lost the bout, 4-5 … she then trailed the next bout vs. Wentrcek (2-4) but became ill and had to withdraw (her final bout vs. Gernes was vacated and did not count to either fencer’s record) … Bautista was checked out by local medical officials but ultimately was able to return to the venue in time to help cheer Zagunis onto her first-place finish … she went 2-6 vs. the contenders (1-1 vs. PSU and Columbia, 0-2 vs. Harvard and SJU) and had a winning record in one-touch bouts (3-2; 1-1 in OT).