The Lady Highlanders Fencing Team finished its team competition season with a Silver Medal in the Championship Finals and a Bronze Medal in the Foil Squad Championships this past week.
No one could have predicted that the Highlanders would have even been in the State Team Playoffs this year. After a stellar 2008-2009 season run that saw the Governor Livingston Fencing teams capture the Girls Team Gold Medal, Girls Saber Squad Gold Medal, the Boys District 3 Championship and State Team Silver Medals, the Highlander Girls lost 6 starters to graduation and the Boys lost 7, including their entire saber line-up.
Thus, the 2009-2010 Fencing Season was supposed to be a "rebuilding year" for the Governor Livingston Highlander Fencing Teams. Thanks to tons of hard work and single-minded dedication, the rebuilding year actually became one of concrete results - and plenty of medals.
After defeating Wayne Valley in the opening NJSIAA Team playoff Round of 16, the Lady Highlanders shocked perennial State Champs -- and #2 ranked -- Columbia with a 14-13 upset win. Then, led by their foil squad, GL earned a spot in the Finals with a 14-13 win over #7 Holy Angels.
Alas, a repeat as State Team Champs was not meant to be this year, with the Highlanders losing a heartbreaker 17-10 to last year's runner-up Northern Highlands. Even with the loss, GL finished the dual meet season with an astounding 22-3 record.
"Our girls hung in every bout. They certainly gave it a tremendous effort; however, Northern Highlands was just too tough, too experienced," remarked Assistant Coach Tony Barbera right after the loss.
Head Coach Vince Paragano was a little more philosophical: "We always viewed this as a rebuilding year. Our Girls starting line-up included only one senior (Saber Jillian Rosamilia) and two juniors and the rest were sophomores and freshmen. If we can win Silver and Bronze Medals with such a young team, we can go very far next year - and the year after."
"We look forward to a great crop of incoming Freshmen next Fall. Add those 'newbies' to our now playoff-experienced athletes, and we are going to have a terrific team next season. The dividend on this year's playoff experience will payoff for the next several years," the coach said.
The Highlander Boys team also made remarkable strides this year despite losing its experienced saber stars and epee State Finalists to graduation. The Boys Team pulled off an amazing showing at the District 3 Championships and earned a berth in the Sweet-16 playoffs.
Although they lost to (eventual Silver Medalists) Bernards 15-12 in the Sweet-16 round, the Boys Team earned loads of respect from their peers.
"They were the toughest team that we faced all year up until the Finals," said Josh Hammond, the U.Penn-bound Bernards High School Saber star. "They are going to be terrific next year with another year of fencing experience and maturity."
Three Highlanders will still be competing in the State Individual Championships at Rider University in 2 weeks. They include George Edinger (Foil), Aileen Trella (Foil) and Jillian Rosamilia (Saber).
After that, many of the GL fencers - and some of their coaches - will be competing in qualifying tournaments for the US Fencing Summer National Championships in Dallas, Texas.
"We (the GL coaches) pride ourselves on also being competitors," said Paragano. "The kids find it exciting that we can teach weapons techniques and still apply them ourselves in competition. We practice what we preach. I look forward to the competitions that pit me against my own team athletes. It really gets everyone's juices flowing and leads to some exciting fencing."
For more information on the Gov.Livingston Fencing Teams and on upcoming Summer fencing programs and qualifier results, log into www.glfencing.org