Christmas Came Early for the MH Fencing Team

Heading into the holiday season, the MH fencing team wrapped up fencing victories faster than Santa’s studious elves wrapped presents during the home meet that took place on Saturday, Dec 17. The quad-meet, which was the first meet for Morris Hills of the year, saw teams from four different schools face off in a morning packed with exhilarating bouts. Competing fencers from Mendham, West Morris, and Morristown high school started arriving at Morris Hills around 8:30 a.m., leaving about an hour’s time to warm up before the first bouts started at 9:30 a.m.. The MH team, meanwhile, had been at school since 7. As the host school, MH fencers were tasked with preparing the school for that morning’s meet. Preparations began with bounds of holiday spirit: Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas” played shamelessly on speakerphone as the fencers shuffled equipment to and fro. Girls Epee captain, Ugonna Egbuchulam, also brought in holiday cookies to spread the festivity. 

Morris Hill’s team spirit was just as strong. Teammates chatted enthusiastically as they carried silver strip panels into the MH gymnasium and began setting up, a cohesive effort that took at least 20 fencers and much coordination. For many new fencers, affectionately dubbed “newbies’,’ the quad-meet was the first time they encountered highly technical bouting technology. Among such equipment were the silver strips that adorned the MH gymnasium floor and the testing kits used to measure weapon sensitivity. Foil newbie Marieann Ugarte recalls excitedly, “Those strips are kind of annoying to set up, but so so cool!” In fact, nearly all the new fencers demonstrated extreme excitement during the meet. As the first meet of the season, Saturday’s quad meet was the first time many met fencers from other schools. Developing fencers were able to make friends (or frenemies) as they partook in JV bouts over the duration of the meet. Foil newbie Khushi Prajapati is “super grateful to have gotten the opportunity to meet and fence so many awesome people.” 

Beyond being the first meet of the season, Saturday’s quad-meet was also a historic first in terms of scoring. Prior to this year, fencing teams in NJ used an “A, B, C” system to determine the order of bouts. Typically, A strip fencers, usually the strongest on the team, would fence the other team’s A strip fencer first. Then, B-strip fencers would fence each other, and so on. In essence, the bouts would proceed in a hierarchical order. Recently, schools in New Jersey decided to adapt to a different numbering system that essentially randomized the order of the bouts. As head coach Lisa explains, “All other fencing institutions use this [new] system, but New Jersey has always done it differently. Over the summer, NJ finally decided to adopt this system, too.” 

Humans can be inherently obstinate creatures, and change often comes with opposition. Numerous fencers were not too pleased with the new system in place; sophomore Ruthvik Venkatssen, men’s foil fencer, put it simply: “This change is…kinda disgusting.”. 

Nonetheless, this change clearly did not faze MH fencers when it came time to bout. Morris Hills won against all three schools – in all three disciplines – across both genders. Did Christmas come early this year? Because Morris Hills delivered.

The MH boys team finished with an impressive 18-9 victory against West Morris and identical 21-6 wins against the Mendham and Morristown teams. The girls, meanwhile, saw similar margins of victory, claiming victories against Mendham and Morristown with scores of 20-7 and 21-6, respectively. The closest call of the day was the match against West Morris, although the MH girls emerged victorious with a final score of 17-10. 

Nehal Singhal, the girl’s foil captain, concluded: “We slayed as usual, and we’ll continue to slay at future meets.” 

The sweeping Morris Hills victories were early victories for the successful season that has continued for the Knights, despite initial concerns. When the previous seniors graduated last year, there were many gaping spots to fill. While there were initially uncertainties regarding the new season, many fencers rose up to meet the occasion. Saturday’s successes prove that (while the graduating seniors will be missed) change is necessary for new fencers to claim the spotlight. One of such fencers was Vanessa Li, one of the girl foils, who worked hard to gain a starting position as “starter.” Vanessa reflects after Saturday’s meet, “Today had its highs and lows, [but] I’m super proud — everyone should be super proud — of our hard work today.” 

All the MH fencers truly should be proud of their accomplishments from the quad-meet. Of course, there is always room to grow as well. As the girl’s foil captain Nehal resolves, “We need to work to help each other through mental roadblocks on the strip…[because] that’s what helps us, win or lose.”