Donning an Owl-faced mask, MHS epee Amina Troupe swoops in to score a point during Saturday’s Santelli Tournament. Mounties girls epee finished fourth in the tournament.

by Andrew Garda

The Montclair High School fencing team had a remarkable weekend at the Santelli and Cetrulo tournaments, held at Drew University on Jan. 13 and 14. The highlight for the Mounties was on Saturday in the Santelli Tournament, as the girls team finished fourth overall for the day. All three weapons — epee, foil and sabre — finished in the top nine of the field.

Girls epee had the highest ranking, finishing fourth out of the field of 49 overall. Led by Amina Troupe, easily distinguished by the owl face painted on her helmet’s mask, the epee crew swept through the initial rounds of competition, landing in the top section of nine for the afternoon matches.

That section held some stiff competition. While the girls beat Lawrenceville, West Morris Mendham and Columbia, they dropped matches to Bergen Tech, Ridge, Montgomery and West Windsor Plainsboro. Ridge, Montgomery and West Windsor Plainsboro all finished above Montclair.

Saber was the second highest ranking discipline for the girls, though they got off to a rough start as Grace Edgington and Emily Hand were defeated in their first match. Grace Van Atta beat her opponent, however.

Then, with their teammates cheering them on, both Edginton and Hand bounced back with wins in their second match, which, along with Van Atta’s second win of the day, propelled girls saber into to the top field.

The top nine was a very challenging bracket, but the Mounties beat Montgomery, Columbia, Ridge and Bergen Tech. They fell in close matches to eventual first-place winner Bernards and second-place Moorestown Friends as well as fourth-place Livingston.

Foil also made the top nine in their category with a seventh-place finish. The girls beat Ridge and Ramapo but struggled against West Windsor Plainsboro, Montgomery, Bergen Tech, Columbia and Millburn.

Sophomore saber Grace Van Atta (foreground) lunges for a strike during her first match at the Santelli Tournament. The Mounties finished sixth in saber and fourth overall on Saturday.

What was most impressive about the wins for all three teams was that the fencers are, for the most part, young.

“Saber was two sophomores and a junior who had never fenced varsity before,” coach Julie Carlsen said. “Epee was two freshmen” and Amina Troupe.

It was a little tougher going for the boys in the Cetrulo Tournament on Sunday, and they ended up at 13 in the finals. Coach Ed Chang still felt they did well, and pointed to an undefeated morning by the epee squad, which finished the day in fifth place, and a gutty showing by the sabers and foils. He was especially proud of saber fencers Charlie Blim and Nathan Weiss as well as foil Lee Meyers.

“Charlie and Lee did really well and Nathan,” Chang said just before MHS’ match against Livingston on Tuesday. “The boys saber really held their own. And the boys are always a work in progress, so we’re just looking for them to do better every time.”

Carlsen added that the boys are always pushing each other to do better and the results are there if you look beyond the pure wins and losses.

Montclair’s Grace Edgington (background) scores a point while avoiding a strike from her opponent during Montclair’s appearance at the Santelli Tournament.

“Saber was ranked 42 out of 52 teams in the field Sunday,” she said. “They finished 21. It’s an improvement, and they’re doing great.”

If the boys can continue to make strides like that, the coaches feel that the Mounties are in good position as they head into the State Tournament in mid-February. The advantage of tournaments like the Cetrulo and Santelli is that they put the Mounties in front of teams they don’t see often and usually not again until the State Tournament.

“We’re really just kind of gauging where we are and who we’re going to see come Districts and in the State Finals slots,” Chang said. Getting a look at teams they don’t normally see can help them prepare.

Before that, the Mounties have to finish the regular season and do well in the District Tournament, held at Montclair High School on Jan. 28. After that, the team has several weeks to prepare for the State Tournament.

“Short term we’re just looking at where we’re going to be for Districts,” Chang said. “District 5 always has a big showing in the top eight. There’s Livingston, Columbia and Millburn. We’re up in there, too. It’s going to be a very competitive district tournament.”