The Highland Echo

Fencing makes a comeback!

Above%3A+Senior+Overall+Captain+Patrick+Gallager+swoops+in+for+the+win%21+Photo+Courtesy%3A+Mariah+Dinan
Above: Senior Overall Captain Patrick Gallager swoops in for the win! Photo Courtesy: Mariah Dinan

Above: Senior Overall Captain Patrick Gallager swoops in for the win! Photo Courtesy: Mariah Dinan

Above: Senior Overall Captain Patrick Gallager swoops in for the win! Photo Courtesy: Mariah Dinan

Mariah Dinan, Out and About Editor

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After the program was nearly canceled before their 2016-2017 season had even started, the West Milford Fencing Team put itself into overdrive, making this season perhaps the biggest rebuilding season the team has ever seen. “Last season, the fencing program was nearly ended as a result of lack of members. This season, the fencing team doubled in size!” says Girls’ Overall Captain, Jessi Barker. To the surprise of many team members, Fencing was able to welcome a grand total of four freshmen members; the boys team gained three while the girls team gained one. When combined with the few other first-year members who joined from other grades, both the girls and boys teams reached just above the minimum number of members to qualify as a team, which is nine. The boys had about eleven members by the time the season had begun, the girls followed with about ten members.
Sadly, even after having just enough members, the team still struggled with broken equipment that could not be replaced, and practices being lost to meetings or other events in the cafeteria. An anonymous fencer stepped forward to say, “I’ve been fencing for three years, and every year – without fail – there’s been at least one meeting in the cafeteria. This has even happened on days where we have scheduled meets and need the entire cafeteria to set up our equipment. In fact, that happened this season… the athletic director relocated the meeting. We wouldn’t just waltz into the middle of [another team’s] practice space and have a meeting, and the same should apply to our space.”
Additionally, the fencing team had to deal with losing their Overall Captain due to unforeseen circumstances. Somehow, in spite of their struggles, the team made it through their season with resolve to make sure the next one went smoothly.
So far, it has gone very well! This year the West Milford Fencing Team has not only doubled in size, but has already begun winning meets. Each team, boys and girls, has won at least one meet each, and with these types of successes so early in the season, the entire team is extremely optimistic about their future.
In fact, almost all of the newbies have shown a huge amount of potential. Nearly all of them have already won their first bout before both the county and district tournaments, and while this is extremely uncommon due to the skill and training involved in this sport, it sheds just another beam of hope on this season. “Having so many new members that are already naturals will really be able to give us a fresh start,” says Girls’ Foil Captain, Dominique Basil, and nearly the entire team can agree with this statement. Girls’ Overall Captain, Jessi Barker, also adds, “Everyone was overjoyed at the outcome of this year’s interest meeting. We face different challenges with the largest team the program has seen in years, but I know that it will all be worth it.”
One such challenge the team is facing this year is the retirement of their coach, Angelo DeVito, who will be moving before the season concludes. One fencer says, “With a bigger team this year, it’s going to be really difficult to go to the tournaments and not have Coach’s wisdom and experience backing us up. He’s been with us for a long, long time and we’re all going to miss him so much.” Angelo’s brother, Lou DeVito, will also be retiring as coach of the boy’s team after this season.
Even though the Fencing team is losing two incredibly experienced and beloved figures, they are still optimistic about the future. “Angelo and Lou DeVito have made a huge impact in the fencing program and they will be missed in future seasons,” says Barker. She added, “Thankfully, Mr. Shenise has stepped up to the plate and is essentially saving the fencing program from being terminated before the next season. We know that he will be a great addition to the team and we have faith that he will help us in future endeavors.”
With so much hope and optimism in the air despite struggle and loss, only one thing can be said to the Fencing team, best of luck, and never forget, “Fly like an albatross, sting like a butterfly!”

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Fencing makes a comeback!