by Andrew Garda
ROCKAWAY—Sometimes even a loss can reflect massive success. That was the case Tuesday night when the Montclair High School’s girls fencing team took on their opposite number from Ridge for the NJSIAA Fencing Team Tournament finals.
Although it was disappointing for the team to lose to a powerful Ridge squad, 16-11, as head coach Ed Chang said after the match, there is a lot to be proud of.
“It’s 12 years in the making. This is as far as the girls have been in 12 years. We’re very proud of everything they’ve done and we’re super proud they put in all this work and they’re seeing the fruits of their labor.”
The match format consisted of three rotations through all three disciplines: saber, foil and epee. The first team to reach 14 points would win, though all bouts would be run through regardless of when a team accrued 14 points.
The Mounties got off to a hot start with Grace Van Atta’s saber win over Zoe Kim, who fences internationally. Grace Edgington and Emily Hand both won their saber matches, giving MHS a 3-0 lead.
Ridge took two of the three matches in the first round of foil, but after a hard-fought win in epee by Amira Mutakabbir, the Mounties finished the first rotation up 5-4.
During the second round of bouts, Ridge ate away at the lead, finally taking it from Montclair in the middle of saber.
Ridge never really relinquished the lead after that, but Montclair battled with every match, even after Ridge scored their 14th point.
The night ended on a high note for the Mounties as Clara Mendoza won the final epee bout of the night.
“Before we got started today, I told them we’re not here to watch you win or lose today, we’re here to watch you work and fight,” Chang said. “And that’s exactly what they did. So we’re immensely proud of that. This result as far as differential, this is probably the hardest fight Ridge had all tournament. So we’re proud of that too, we are proud of the fact that we put up a really great fight. The girls did a really great job.”
The Montclair faithful, including the boys team, agreed. The crowd brought a tremendous amount of energy for the fencers, who were clearly buoyed by the support.
The season isn’t quite over for Montclair, who sends nine fencers—six girls and three boys—to the individual tournament. However, Chang said that it’s going to be tough to say goodbye to the seniors of both genders as the season winds down.
“The [seniors] leaving are a huge, huge part of our team,” said Chang. “They’ve come up with us, and as far as I’m concerned, I’ve been here for three years and I’ve seen them develop. I wasn’t here for their freshman year, but I basically saw them over the course of their developmental three years, and it’s going to be sad to see them go but we have a very young core.”
That young core will not stop working, either. Chang said both boys and girls will be helping him teach middle schoolers fencing in just a couple of weeks, and many will be at the upcoming middle school fencing club as well.
“[They] know the mentality we’re taking into the future seasons,” said Chang. “And what I also love is that we’ve got a lot of subs ready to go. Young girls ready to go to take the spots that are empty after the season. So we’re looking forward to a really strong season next year and more hard work from the girls.”