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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
The Observer

Irish fencing looks for more hardware at 2023 NCAA Championships

The back-to-back NCAA champion Notre Dame fencing team will vie this week for the chance to secure another national title. This is the ninth year the Irish will send the maximum number of fencers — a dozen — to the sport’s ultimate competition at the collegiate level, which takes place from March 23-26.

At Duke University’s Castellan Family Fencing Center, located inside the iconic Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Irish will attempt to finish a season that has already seen them win the men’s and women’s ACC championships on a high note. Doing so will require a team effort from everyone competing for the Irish. While seven contenders are repeats from last year’s NCAAs, five student-athletes have been selected for the first time.

The six fencers on the women’s half of the contest bring 11 combined years of experience. In sabre, graduate student Kara Linder and junior Atara Greenbaum have earned their fifth and third selections, respectively, this season.

Meanwhile, in the women’s epee, junior Kaylin Sin Yan Hsieh will become a third-time participant. She will compete alongside freshman Eszter Muhari, who is making her NCAA Championships debut. Rounding out the women’s entry, senior Amita Berthier, appearing in the tournament for a fourth time, and sophomore Rebeca Candescu, a first-time competitor, will represent the Irish in foil.

From the men’s squad, two freshmen will be standing in for the Irish in epee: Maruan Osman-Touson and Jonathan Hamilton-Meikle. In men’s sabre, graduate student Jared Smith and junior Luke Linder will represent the Irish. Smith is making his fourth straight NCAA Championships appearance. Linder, meanwhile, has qualified in all three of his years with the Irish.

Serving the Irish in foil, senior Marcello Olivares brings to the table two years of experience. Additionally, Chase Emmer, a freshman, is the lone competitor from the men’s to be making a debut in this tournament.

Over the competition’s four days of matchups, the nation’s top athletes will differentiate amongst themselves through individual events in each of the six weapons — round-robin style. Following the round robin, which consists of five-touch bouts and 24 fencers, the top-four finishers in each of the six weapons advance to the semifinals. Those are 15-touch bouts.

Winners of the semifinal round go on to face one another to determine first and second place. The competition, however, halts for semifinal-round losers. There is no third-place fight, with those who fall in the semifinals officially tying for third.

A team’s finish in the NCAAs is contingent on the total points earned by individual fencers. Teams accumulate one point for each victory obtained during the round-robin portion of tournament.

Irish fencing has amassed more team championships than any other program on campus. This season, the Irish have the opportunity to land its 13th national title. Head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia, who joined the program in 2014, has led Notre Dame to the team crown four times in 2017, 2018, 2021 and 2022, among other accolades.

In the 2022 NCAA Championships, held on campus at the Joyce Center, Notre Dame won its fourth title of the past five years. The Irish finished 21 points ahead of the next two challengers, Harvard and Columbia, who each tallied 168 points. Hsieh took home the Irish’s sole individual national championship in last year’s competition in the women’s epee.

The National Collegiate Men’s and Women’s Fencing Championships semifinal and final bouts can be viewed live at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN+. On April 6, the semifinals, the finals and championship highlights will air on ESPNU at 2 p.m.