Millburn Fencers Advance to State Semi-Finals

Millburn Coach Robert Baum gives foil starter Andrew Afable advice during a time out at a home meet against Bergen Tech Credits: Karen Fitch
Foil starter Andrew Brod lunges and scores against his opponent at Mendham High School during the second round of state championship playoffs. Credits: Satyen Gupta
Epée starter Ricky Eschenbach gets ready for a bout at Mendham High School. Credits: Satyen Gupta
Millburn Captain Alec Tabatchnick directs a bout at the Montclair Freshman/Sophomore Invitational Tournament. Credits: Karen Fitch
(From Left) Freshman foil fencers Ethan Hu, Michael Tai, and Jordan Gaelen smile after going through their preliminary bouts. Credits: Karen Fitch

MILLBURN, NJ - The Millburn High School Boys Fencing team cemented their place as one of the best teams in the state with a victory over Mendham High School that concluded a hectic yet reward-laden week for the team.

 It started on Thursday, Feb. 7, when Millburn, coming off of a victory in their first state championship match this season against Bergen Tech, trounced St. Benedict’s Preparatory School 19 – 8. The meet, while placed at an odd time in between state playoffs, gave confidence to team members headed to the 2013 Freshman/Sophomore Invitational, hosted at Montclair High School on Feb. 10. In addition to the young competitors, upperclassmen participated in this tournament by directing fencing bouts.

As for the competition itself, the underclassmen at Millburn took advantage of this annual opportunity to truly shine. Millburn sophomore foil fencers Alex Brod and Jan Piotrowiak took first and third respectfully in their event. In freshman foil, Alex Ren went undefeated and emerged as the overall champion, followed closely by Michael Tai and Misheel Boldbataar, who tied for third place. Ethan Hu and Elliot Sotnick made it to quarterfinals, while Sammy Zucker and Jordan Gaelen both reached the top sixteen.

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In freshman epée, Simon Yang advanced to quarterfinals while Ryan Sullivan, Satyen Gupta, and Zachary Vinik all advanced one round in playoffs. Drew Vreeland won third place in sophomore sabre, followed by Ian Jaffe, who earned twelfth.

The widely successful tournament was followed by intense practice Monday and Tuesday to prepare for the state playoff against Mendham, a meet that was “undoubtedly the most dramatic of the fencing season thus far,” as freshman Brandon Rosenberg put it. The match started out poorly for Millburn, with numerous losses putting the team at a 2-7 disadvantage. Millburn Sabre, one of the strongest factions of the team, then led a startling five-point comeback that tied the score. From then on, the score remained neck and neck until Mendham took a three point lead that was closed only when freshman Alex Ren was brought in to substitute for starter Alex Brod, who had injured his foot. Ren had an astoundingly swift 5-0 victory that boosted the team’s spirit and led to A-ranked fencer Albert Reiss winning the meet for Millburn, 14-13.

“It was definitely the closest, most exciting meet I’ve ever seen,” said Cindy Burzynski, an avid parent. The epic one-bout triumph over Mendham puts Millburn in the semifinals for state champion, a title that, earlier this year, the Star Ledger called them the “favorite to win.” Millburn looks to realize that prediction on Feb. 20, as they face Columbia High School, a team they beat earlier this season and, as one fencer confidently asserts, “look forward to beating again.”

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