Notre Dame, IN (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Notre Dame will host the Midwest Fencing Conference Championship (MFCC) this Saturday and Sunday at the Joyce Center Fieldhouse, and the Irish will be looking to win the event for the first time in four years.
Sixteen teams will compete, including women's No. 6 Northwestern, Ohio State (men's No. 1, women's No. 10) and regional powerhouse Wayne State.
Notre Dame has not won the event since 2002, even though it has always been held at the Joyce Center.
"It's funny," Irish senior Jack Goetz said. "We used to win it every year, through most of the '90s and early 2000s, and 2003 was the first time we lost in like a decade."
The Irish won the national championship in 2003, so losing the MFCC that year was not exactly a death blow.
"I feel like we've been struggling to claim the title, but as far as an indicator as to whether we'll win the national championship ... it's hard to say," Goetz said.
The MFCC is more or less a tune-up for the midwest regional on March 4, though its name suggests otherwise.
"It's not really important as far as winning the national championship goes, but it is our last tournament before regionals," senior Craig Brede said.
Irish sophomore Rachel Cota is focused on reclaiming the crown, despite the MFCC being Notre Dame's immediate concern.
"I would say the women want the title of conference champions back and we want to make Ohio State nervous about NCAAs," Cota said.
The Ohio State men defeated Notre Dame at NYU earlier this year in the only contest between the two. The Buckeyes came to the Notre Dame Duals in late January, but did not compete against the Irish.
"To have Ohio State there and to beat them, would be very big for us, and to carry that momentum into Regionals would be good as well as to qualify as many people for the NCAAs," Bedre said.
The conference championship will also be the last home meet for the team's seniors.
"I know in terms of getting to NCAAs it doesn't mean much, but still I get the feeling that people really want to win this because it's kinda like a home tournament and ... we want to show people that we can beat Ohio State and it means a lot to me," Goetz said.
The Nore Dame men's main focus is Ohio State. But the Irish women will be focused on another midwestern opponent - Northwestern.
"At the Northwern Duals in November, we swept them 9-0 and I think we can do that again," Cota said.
"We lost the last time we fenced them, and let's just say I would not want to be Northwestern this weekend."
Despite Ohio State and Northwestern's presence, the tournament will be missing three of the biggest names in fencing. Wayne State's Marek Petraszek and Anna Garina will skip the event, as well as Notre Dame sophomore Mariel Zagunis. Zagunis is fresh off a World Cup victory in Dourdan, France last weekend and is competing in Budapest, Hungary.
Goetz and Bedre are hoping for a solid showing from the students in Notre Dame's last home match of the season.
"I think it does help to have some people come out and cheer... I know it means a lot for me to have my friends come out and cheer, so it does help a bit," Goetz said.
(C) 2006 The Observer via CSTV U-WIRE