The Montgomery High fencing teams both got a chance to see where they stand amongst the top teams in the state last weekend.
The Cougar girls competed in the Santelli Tournament, while the boys were part of the Cetrulo Tournament. Both tournaments, which traditionally bring most of the state’s fencing programs together, were held at Drew University in Madison.
Montgomery finished second overall in the Santelli, while the Cougar boys placed 15th at the Cetrulo.
“As always, it is a long day,” said Montgomery girls’ coach Johanna Snedeker, whose team trailed only Bergen Tech in the overall standings. “Coming in second exceeded our expectations. Our sabre fencers are, for the most part, novices. So they don’t have the competitive experience. This is a new thing for them and they did very well. To have made it into the to eight was extraordinary for them.”
The Montgomery girls were second in epee, third in foil, and finished eighth in sabre. The epee squad includes senior Melissa Louie on A strip, sophomore Julia Yoon on B strip and freshman Emma Ni on the C strip.
“Melissa is a senior and leader and doing very well,” Snedeker said. “Julia Yoon has stepped up to the B and freshman Emma Ni, who is very mature as an athlete, is doing very well. To handle the pressure as if she has been doing it for years is impressive.”
The foil squad has always been a strength for Montgomery and is again this year.
“May Tieu is back and she fences nationally and internationally and for the high school when she can,” Snedeker said. “The rock of the foil is Laura Sun. She is a senior who is going to UPenn and she is just so consistent and so strong and a great leader for the team. Colleen McConnell is a senior and she has been doing very well this year.”
The surprise of the tournament for the Cougars was the sabre squad finishing in eighth place. The trio of Leona Tomy, Chandravathi Sayani and Ria Chevan is new to the varsity level but has been steadily improving.
“They have been on the team but not at this level,” Snedeker said. “The squad has been strong the last few years. This year is a whole new line. All of last year’s starters have moved on.”
Earlier this season the Montgomery girls won the Somerset County Tournament. An after an impressive showing in the Santelli, the team could be heading towards another big season.
“We were not too far out of first,” Snedeker said of the Santelli. “Ridge was right on our heels. They beat us head to head in a dual meet. But we took them at the county. I’m sure we’ll see them again. We’ll see how the rest of the season goes.
“Nothing this season comes easily. We’re not as strong and other teams are stronger. At the county tournament we took first in foil and epee. Sabre had more success than I had anticipated, which put us into first place.”
The next big day for the Cougars will be the District 2 tournament on Jan. 27. The results of that day will determine who advances to the state team and squad championships, as well as the individual championships.
“Five of the top 10 teams from the Santelli are in our district,” Snedeker said. “Only four will make it to states. So every move we make will be challenging The top three epee squads from Santelli are all in District 2 and four will go to the squad tournament. This year’s district tournament is going to be grueling. If you emerge out of District 2 and are still in it, that is impressive. We just have to maintain our edge and stay healthy.”
The foil team led the way with a fourth-place finish for the Montgomery boys' team at the Cetrulo.
“We have been lucky in foil,” Montgomery boys’ coach Tim Sullivan said. “Montgomery has been strong for a couple of years. Last year we had two sophomores and a freshman and now its two juniors and a sophomore.”
Justin Cho on A strip and Evan Wang on B strip are juniors, while sophomore Charles Liu is on C strip.
“They have an extra year of experience and it is nice to see they are doing well,” Sullivan said. “For years we had great foil squads and then a little down spell. But last year we were eighth in the state and now we’re strong again. The goal to keep themselves improving.
“I have been lucky with that weapon. We don’t have those numbers in the other two weapons. The great thing about fencing is there is so much peer teaching. When you have kids that are involved in the team that makes everyone else shine. Justin is doing a great job with the foils around him. Even the backups at No. 4 and No. 5 are strong. They have great role models.”
Andrew Atschinow, a senior in sabre, went 7-0 in the first round of Cetrulo.
Like the girls, the boys are gearing up for the District 2 tournament later this month.
“The whole season is the 27th,” Sullivan said. “With District 2, if you do well you’re a top team. There are so many good teams that will be there. West Windsor North, West Windsor South, Ridge, Bernards, Hunterdon Central and ourselves. All six teams are very good and only four make it in that group. Ridge has been unbelievable and they are the team to beat.”
The Princeton Day School boys finished 14th as a team at the Cetrulo, while Hun finished 27th and Princeton was 33rd. The Panthers' top finish was a 13th in epee. Princeton was 21st in epee. Hun was 26th in epee.
At the Santelli, the Hun School girls finished 19th as a team, Princeton ended in 39th and Princeton Day School placed 49th. Hun's top placement was a 14th in epee. Princeton was 24th in epee. PDS was 11th in foil.