BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Governor Livingston fencers are in fine form for the District 3 tournament taking place in Livingston this Sunday, Jan. 26.District 3 is well-known to be the toughest and most competitive of the four districts in the NJSIAA fencing community. It is also home to Maplewood's Columbia High School, whose boys or girls team has been the state champion for each of the past four years.
However, the Lady Highlanders are ready to throw a wrench into Columbia's plans this year. The GL women are currently ranked at second place in the state, right on the heels of last year's Santelli champions, Bernards. With an 8-2 record so far this year, the girls team has bounced back from significant graduation losses last year in foil and sabre and stands strong on its own merits.
According to Captain Michelle Drobish, "At the end of last season, I knew that we all had to work really hard in the off-season to be where we were last season. Coming in 3rd overall for Santelli's was such a great feeling because it was even better than how we did last year. Both our sabre and épée squads placed 4th this year which clearly shows how much we've improved in just a year. I'm so proud of everyone on the team and I know that with our passion for fencing, we can achieve anything."
Despite early dual meet losses to Bernards and Columbia, the team is in the midst of a winning streak, having won their last five games with margins of no less than 11 touches each. The sabre squad, led by Drobish, Julia Yang, and [sister] Chrissy Drobish, was a big part of the reason the girls' team was identified by the Star Ledger as the 'team to watch' at Districts. The starting épée squad, including seniors Alaina Jennings, Lauren Gonnelli and Jacelyn Greenwald as well as junior Emily Xu is also extremely solid and is already on the verge of surpassing the total number of wins they earned during last year's entire season. The foil squad, while young, has stepped up to the piste and is ready to make a name for themselves.
When Drobish talks about this year's team, her passion really comes through: "What I love about our team is that we NEVER go down without a fight and that's what we teach the underclassmen: to never give up. No matter how we do at Districts, we'll be back year after year to represent our school and I think that's what really counts".
The men are also primed and ready for a victory. The boys' team currently holds a 6-3 record but is also one of the few to have consistently played difficult opponents. The boys' team this year boasts twin peaks in sabre and foil. The starting sabre squad, comprised of seniors Mark Watson, Danny Marchelitis and Ian Fan, took the gold at the District tournament last year and is ready to repeat that feat once again.
The foil squad, led by Captain Ben Carlick along with new team members Sean Li and Alex Ju and stalwart John Hanna, has had a very impressive season as well. The épée squad has grown a great deal this season is ready to complement the other weapons. A recent meet against Newark Academy, whose foil squad is legend, shows how far the GL épées have come. With the score neck and neck the entire way, at the beginning of the last set of epee bouts the score was tied 12-12.
GL's Jake Tyler got several touches against William Delaney but lost on a double-touch at 5-4 making the score 13-12 Newark. Then Andrew Savino of GL fenced against Jason Suh, and came from behind to win the bout 5-4, again tying the score at 13-13.
Finally Brandon Donohue, who as an épée rookie stole the show against West Windsor/Plainsboro-South at the Bernards quad, came up against C-rated Lyle Poisson. Poisson quickly took a 2-0 lead, followed by a double-touch setting the score at 3-1. Donohue took the next three touches, giving GL the lead at 4-3 while the crowd went wild! Poisson then tied the score 4-4 with 17 seconds to go. Time ran out; Newark Academy won priority. Although Newark won the final touch, clearly the GL men are ready for their moment in the sun.
As Carlick astutely observes about the boys' team, "We usually don’t get mentioned when the 'teams to watch' or 'fencers to watch' articles come out, yet our team ends up outperforming and often defeating many of the teams and people that are. That’s something that I think is really special about us. Being treated as the underdogs just makes us work harder and we've gotten stronger."