FENCING: Irish leave no question with 24-3 win
By MIKE CONNOLLY
Two weeks ago, Northwestern head coach Laurie Schiller questioned Notre Dame's toughness. He mocked the Irish conditioning regime. He ridiculed their practices.
"They have voluntary practice and don't do conditioning," Schiller told the Daily Northwestern on Feb. 1.
And then his team nipped a short-handed Irish squad 15-12 in Colorado Springs.
This weekend, the Irish had something to prove. In a rematch with the Wildcats, the Irish, now with all their top fencers, sent Schiller a message: Talk is cheap, and it's time to cash in.
Notre Dame dominated Northwestern from start to finish and walked away with a convincing 23-4 win at the Ohio State duals Saturday.
"We were all pumped up because the Northwestern coach was saying some things we didn't appreciate so we were all gung-ho for the match," said epeeist Kerry Walton, who went undefeated against Northwestern and 10-1 overall.
The biggest difference for the Irish was the return to action of freshman foilist Andrea Ament. Ament missed last week's match with Northwestern because she was fencing in a World Cup tournament in Germany.
With Ament's return to the team, Maggie Jordan moved back to her stronger weapon — sabre — and the Irish rout was on.
"Everyone was back where they were supposed to be and it obviously made the difference," Walton said.
Ament's 3-0 record against the Wildcats certainly helped, but across the board, the Irish women fenced better than last week.
Fifth-year senior Cari McCullough went undefeated against the Wildcats while epeeist Meagan Call turned an 0-3 record against the Wildcats in Colorado Springs into a 2-1 record this weekend.
An increase in intensity and focus was the key against Northwestern, according to sabrewoman Destanie Milo who went 2-1 against the Wildcats.
"All week we had in mind that we wanted to come back and beat Northwestern when we had a second chance against them," she said. "We were really intense and very focused on beating them. It's amazing what that mindset can do for you."
The Irish also defeated Ohio State 15-12, Wayne State 23-4 and Cleveland State 26-1.
As the women avenged a previous defeat, the Irish men's team kept right on rolling as they racked up four wins and increased their winning streak to 55-straight dual meets.
The toughest challenge for the Irish came against the Buckeyes and their strong sabre and epee squads.
Ohio State's sabre squad featured two national team fencers in Jason Rogers and Colin Parker but Notre Dame still prevailed 5-4. Rogers swept the Irish in his three bouts but both Andre Crompton and Matt Fabricant beat Parker.
The next time he meets Rogers, however, Crompton expects to do better.
"This was the first time I've fenced him collegially and now I have a feel for how he fences and I will do better next time," he said.
The men's epee team could not overcome an injury to star freshman Michal Sobieraj, however, and dropped the bout to the Buckeyes 5-4.
"We probably wouldn't have lost to Ohio state in epee, if we had him there," epee captain Jan Viviani said. "We definitely shouldn't have lost to them. They've beaten some good teams this year and they are a little better than we expected but still."
The men's foil team, however, crushed the Buckeyes 7-2 to give the Irish a 16-11 win.
The men also defeated Northwestern 22-5, Wayne State 21-6 and Cleveland State 25-2.
Sobieraj, who was not initially expected to return from his broken foot until the Midwest Regional Qualifiers on March 9, could return for the Midwest Conference Championships on March 2-3. But if he isn't ready, the Irish aren't going to rush him.
"We've got to assess his condition before then," Crompton said. "If he is not going to be ready, we aren't going to risk it. Regionals is what really matters."
Sobieraj has gone 26-1 in his debut season.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, February 12, 2002