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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

Back-to-back-to-back: Irish fencing reigns again

Notre Dame celebrates the NCAA Fencing National Championship on Sunday afternoon
Notre Dame celebrates the NCAA Fencing National Championship on Sunday afternoon

Thanks to the 2022-2023 Notre Dame Fencing program, the green No. 1 above Grace Hall remains alive, well and most importantly, lit up. The team won their third consecutive NCAA Championship in March, their 13th overall. The Irish have won five of the last six championships, dating back to 2017. With two individual champions in both the men’s and women’s divisions, the team returned from Durham with a strong sense of unity and hard at work to make the feat a four-for-four next year.

The community of teammates and support from the coaches seems to be the driving force for individual players on the team. Freshman epee fencer and individual NCAA champion Eszter Muhari felt that way all season. Being on the strip when the Irish won the championship made her feel like a real part of the team. The Hungary native said that this was something she had not experienced in her 12 years of fencing in Europe individually, and it made her personal victory that much more rewarding.

Seeing the excitement from her team on the sidelines “made me feel so relaxed and so hyped that it made me feel like there was nothing to worry about,” Muhari said.

Back in high school when she was looking for programs to fence at the collegiate level for the next four years of her life, she said that she wanted that unity. “I wanted to be part of a team and I think that the most perfect thing that I found here is a team ... actually being part of one and being an active part of one,” Muhari said.

That merge of rigorous training and fun community was what brought Muhari and her talents to Notre Dame and she has never had a doubt about where she needed to be.

“This is the best fencing program in the country, so there was no other choice for me,” Muhari said.

For junior Luke Linder, NCAA individual men’s sabre champion, this year’s individual win means even more than his win as a freshman.

“My freshman year, we didn’t have the [Ivy League schools]. [They] decided not to compete due to COVID ... so it didn’t feel like a whole tournament,” Linder said. ”But to be back this year, fully healthy, the entire season length and to win it again when everybody is there ... it means a lot more, especially through a tougher field of opponents, and it just proves I’m still one of the best.” 

Linder shared Muhari’s sentiment regarding the program’s history and national recognition. That was why he decided to fence at Notre Dame. His first three years at Notre Dame, all ending team victories, have proven that it was the right choice.

“The program as a whole, it just defined success and that was really attractive and as it’s lived up so far. I mean, you can tell from the three national championships in a row, it’s been nothing shy of that,” Linder said.

The two individual wins this year prove the Irish fencing program’s strength in maintaining and nurturing the talent of its individual members is as strong as ever. With a large chunk of that talent set to return, that does not figure to change any time soon.

Linder is looking forward to next year’s season. The main goal, of course, is continuing the winning streak. He also hopes to continue that same legacy that drew him to Notre Dame for coming generations of fencers.

“Setting it up for the people who come after when I’m gone, and just giving them the opportunity to continue on this and build on the success we’ve written is an honor and it’s definitely something that I’m looking forward to next year competing with and having, the reward of facing the pressure to do,” Linder said.

Under head coach Guiorgie “Gia” Kvaratskhelia, Notre Dame fencing continues to live up to and improve its elite reputation. Its success is one that the Notre Dame community as a whole hopes to continue to witness.