Program claims twelfth national title, breaks university record

The Notre Dame fencing team won the program’s twelfth national title in the NCAA Fencing Championship, hosted March 24-27 at the University of Notre Dame’s Castellan Family Fencing Center in the Joyce Center. With twelve national titles, the fencing team now has more national titles than the football team, which, until Sunday, held the university record. The title is the fourth in the last five championships for Notre Dame, and the fourth for head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia.

“It never gets old,” Kvaratskhelia said. 

In addition to the team’s victory, Olympian and Notre Dame sophomore Kaylin Hsieh won the national title for women’s epee.

Notre Dame beat second-place Harvard and third-place Columbia in the team competition. Teams are awarded one point for each individual victory by a member of the team throughout the duration of the championships. The outcome of each bout counts towards both individual and team scores.

“Every single match was important not only to me, but also to my school because it contributed to the team score,” Hsieh said.

Fencers compete individually in six divisions: men’s and women’s epee, foil, and sabre. Twenty-four fencers compete in each event, with no more than two fencers per school per event.

Twelve fencers from Notre Dame competed in the championship, making this the eighth year in a row that the university has sent the maximum number of fencers per team to the competition. Kara Linder, Atara Greenbaum, Amita Berthier, Nicole Pustilnik, Amanda Pirkowski, Kaylin Hsieh, Andrew Machovec, Nick Itkin, Stephen Ewart, Hunter Candreva, Jared Smith, and Luke Linder represented the Fighting Irish against fencers from twenty-six schools.

Fencers qualify individually for the national championship through a system of rankings determined by performance in regional competitions. More than twelve Notre Dame fencers qualified for the NCAA Championship, but coaches could select only twelve members to represent the team. Ohio State, Columbia, Princeton, Harvard, and Penn State also sent full rosters of twelve fencers.

In the championship, fencers within each division compete in a round-robin format to determine the top four individuals for semi-final competition. Bouts between the first and fourth place fencers and the second and third place competitors send the victors on to the final bout.

Notre Dame fencers competed in three final bouts: Hsieh, Berthier, and Greenbaum fenced in the women’s epee, women’s foil, and women’s sabre championship bouts, respectively. Hsieh took home the national title, and Berthier and Greenbaum each earned second place in their divisions.

Hsieh, a sophomore from Hong Kong, competed for Hong Kong in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. As a freshman at Notre Dame, she placed second in women’s epee at the 2021 NCAA Championship.

“Last year, I lost in the finals by one touch, so the champion could have been me. That was the stem of my motivation to fence better and to do this again,” Hsieh said. “I know it’s not easy, but my mindset was just to focus on doing well in every single bout. I’ve been wanting to have this since last year.”

“It feels good,” she continued, “It’s crazy, and I love it because this is my first and last experience of winning a home game. Winning both titles feels surreal.” The next time that Notre Dame will host the NCAA Championship will be in 2026, after Hsieh has graduated.

The NCAA Championship concludes the fencing season for the Notre Dame team, which practices for two and a half hours every afternoon Monday through Friday, plus hour-long morning workouts Tuesday through Thursday.

“Juggling school with all of this fencing has been insane, so it feels really good to win and to finish the season on a good note. I still have international tournaments to focus on, but I’m getting a little break before I head back to work,” Hsieh said.

In addition to the team’s national title, the team took home All-American honors from U.S. Fencing Coaches Association for outstanding performances at NCAA Championships. Hsieh, Berthier, and Greenbaum received first-team All-American honors, and Candreva, Itkin, Machovec, L. Linder, Smith, Pirkowski, Pustilnik, and K. Linder received second-team All-American honors.

Mary Frances Myler is senior majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies with minors in theology and constitutional studies. She fenced for a short time in middle school, but soon set down the sword to pick up a mightier weapon: the pen. Her younger sister, however, chose the better part and now fences for the Fighting Irish. Mary Frances can be reached at

Photo credit: @notredamefencing on Instagram