Notre Dame fencers claim national title

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

The Notre Dame men’s and women’s fencing team joined some rare company Sunday.

The Irish rode a wire-to-wire finish and secured its 11th national championship all-time at the Bryce Jordan Center on the campus of Penn State University.

The fencing program with its latest national title joins the Irish football program for the most national championships by any sport on campus. Both now have 11 national titles.

“Very grateful for the occasion and very happy for our program, especially for our kids and our coaches,” said head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia in a release. “The competition was a joy for us. We were deprived of the opportunity to compete last year so we tried to enjoy this run as much as we could.”

The Irish won the title during the morning round robin play Sunday as Miriam Grady defeated Axelle Wasiak of Penn State for the clinching point in the fourth round. The Irish ended the round robin portion with five of the six athletes advancing to the semifinals, just like the men did on Friday. Amita Berthier and Stefani Deschner both earned spots in foil, Kara Linder in sabre and Kaylin Hsieh and Grady in epee.

Notre Dame also added two more individual champions and one runner-up to the list of accomplishments on the weekend. Deschner and Linder both claimed their first career individual championships in foil and sabre, respectively. In total, the Irish claimed four individual champions, two runner-up finishes, 10 first team All-Americans and one second and third team All-American.

Julia McKenna, an Adams graduate, is a sophomore member of the Irish. The foilist was the 2019 Valedictorian at Adams. Her mother Maria was also a member of the Irish fencing program. Her father Mark played football and grandfather Phil basketball for the Irish.

The Irish finished with 201 points as a team, the most points by any team in history in the current championship format. Penn State was second with 182 points.

Women’s Epee

The Irish had both Hsieh and Grady make the semifinals after finishing as the top-two seeds. Hsieh made quick work of the No. 4 seed Nicole Gavrilko, defeating her 15-8 for a spot in the finals. Grady had a tough battle with Laura Fekete in the semifinals but they stayed within a few points the entire bout. After tying it at 11, Freeke tallied three of the final four touches to clinch the win. Grady finished tied for third and earned first team All-American honors, the highest finish of her career at NCAA’s.

In the finals, Hsieh jumped out to a 5-2 lead on Fekete in the first period. Fekete made a run back in the second period but Hsieh held her ground and kept a slim 8-7 advantage after the conclusion of the period. Fekete tied the match at 13-13 and the championship wound up coming down to the final touch. Fekete just beat out Hsieh to claim the championship. Hsieh finished as the epee runner-up and claimed first team All-American honors.

Women’s Foil

Another pair of Irish made the semifinals as Berthier and Deschner clinched top-four spots in foil. The duo faced off as they earned the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, setting up the semifinal matchup. Deschner jumped out to an early lead on Berthier that she held comfortably throughout the whole match. The match was clinched at 15-9 and Deschner moved on to her first career finals appearance. Berthier placed tied for third and earned her second career first team All-American honor.

In the finals, Deschner got off to a torrid start and scored the first seven touches of the match. Lodovica Bicego made a run back, stringing together a number of touches in a row to bring the deficit to 14-9. Deschner stayed calm and collective as she secured the final touch to clinch the individual title. She is the first Irish women’s foil champion since Lee Kiefer back in 2017.

Women’s Sabre

Linder faced off with Kelli Wozniak of Penn State in the 2-3 matchup for the sabre semifinals. A close battle had the two within a few points throughout the bout. Wozniak held a 12-11 lead but Linder was able to get it all tied up at 14-14. With the match on the line, Linder beat Wozniak to the touch to move onto the finals with a score of 15-14.

Linder got off to a fast start in the finals against Sky Miller, taking an early 8-1 lead. She did not look back after building the early lead and clinched the championship with a final score of 15-4. Linder secured the first Irish women’s sabre championships since Francesca Russo won the last one back in 2017.

Women’s Competition

Epee

2. Kaylin Hsieh, 16-5 (+37). T3. Miriam Grady, 15-6 (+26).

Foil

1. Stefani Deschner, 16-4 (+42). T3. Amita Berthier, 19-1 (+63)

Sabre

1. Kara Linder, 18-3 (+46). 11. Atara Greenbaum, 12-9 (+5)

Men’s Competition

Epee

2. Stephen Ewart, 15-8 (+19). 5. Ariel Simmons, 14-7 (+21)

Foil

1. Marcello Olivares 19-3 (+55). 2. Andrew Machovec 18-4 (+54)

Sabre

1. Luke Linder 21-2 (+62).2. Jared Smith 18-5 (+43)

2021 National Collegiate Fencing Championships at the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday.