Raider girls fencing readies for state tourney
By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
Phoebe Huang was looking for something new and exciting when she came to The Hun School as a freshman, and she decided to try fencing.
Picking a weapon was less calculated.
”It was a supply and demand thing,” Huang said. “We were in need of foils. But out of all the weapons, foil is more about precision and form. So I guess I was more inclined to do foil.”
It has worked out well for Huang and the Raider girls. She has developed into an A strip fencer and a two-year captain of the foil squad. Huang went 1-1 to help the Raiders improve to 4-2 with a 15-12 win over local rival Princeton Day School on Tuesday.
”It was really exciting,” Huang said. “Last time, it took us a while. I had to actually do the winning bout last time. We had to go all the way to the third round. This time, we kind of swept them in the first round and beat them in the second round.”
Even with a young team — the Raiders only have three senior girls — they are in good shape as they tune up for the state tournament that will be held in two weeks. They have to get by Lawrenceville on Wednesday.
”We’re in a really good position for states,” Huang said. “If we win against Lawrenceville, we could be seeded first.”
Huang leads a strong foil squad that returns its top four fencers from a year ago — Annete Jeffs, Kanako Shibano and Christy Huang (no relation to Phoebe). They have taken great strides since last year.
”Annete has improved a lot, and we also have Kanako and Christy,” Phoebe Huang said. “They’re improving every single meet. Annete is a sophomore. Christy is a junior. Kanako is a senior.
”We were all on varsity last year. Last year at Santelli, the four of us were the foil squad that went. We went against this year. It was really cool because last year we got 37th and this year we got 16th. It was the same squad, so I think that shows how we improved as a team.”
The epee squad is also largely in tact from a year ago. Junior standout Noelle Baptiste, senior Erin Lee and Sabrina Liu headline the squad, and there are good ones waiting in the wings. Freshman Leena Farhart is a JV fencer to pick up a win over a varsity PDS fencer Tuesday. The epee squad has only one loss, and it came with a substitute.
The girls sabre is led by sophomore Tara Dorgan, who trains outside of school as well and is in her second year on the A strip. Sara Galik and Alex Sitepu also fence sabre and give the Raiders a strong overall team.
”They’ve beaten all the prep teams they’ve fenced, including Oak Knoll,” said Hun head coach Rey Gonzalez. “We haven’t beaten Oak Knoll in almost 20 years. It’s a big win. It went down to Noelle’s bout. She’s 15-0. She has a chance to be the first fencer we’ve had to go undefeated.
”They’re all special. Phoebe is having a great season. Erin is having a great season. Tara Dorgan is having a very good season. She’s the first sabre that fences outside and she has a great record. Our 1s are all strong, and our 2s and 3s are strong too. I don’t know how it’ll work out at states. A lot can happen.”
The Hun school boys are 3-3 after falling, 14-13, to PDS on the final bout.
”The boys beat Voorhees and (West Windsor-Plainsboro) North, and North has a great sabre team,” Gonzalez said. “Those are good teams. They beat Moorestown Friends. They had beaten all the public teams, not the prep schools.
”They really give it their all when they get out there, even in practice. I’m proud to be associated with them.”
The PDS boys are 3-5, but they are only a few touches away from a sparkling record. They have lost four bouts by 14-13 scores, and to knock off Hun for the second time this season was fulfilling.
”I was pleased that (junior epee) Matthew Cavuto was able to overcome apulled muscle and bring in the tie-breaking bout for us,” said PDS head coach Paul Epply-Schmidt. “After four losses at 13-14, it’s gratifying to win one by that score. Of course, anyone who contributed a winning bout helped to the overall score.
”The girls still have a number of fencers with limited experience, but theyare full of heart!”
Epply-Schmidt’s Panther girls, who have smaller numbers than many years, are 1-6 this season and are gaining experience every day.
Huang has picked up plenty of experience in her years at Hun. The Lawrenceville resident has grown into her captain role and tries to be a good example.
”The thing I’ve worked the most on is not losing my cool during bouts and trying to be a leader for the rest of my teammates,” said Huang, who is exploring the option of fencing in college. “If something is not going well, being there for the rest of my team and stepping up for them. I think that sometimes I’ve lost concentration a little bit, but I’m getting more confident so that’s helping my fencing.”
Huang could have gotten down when she lost a bout to PDS, but she split her bouts to help Hun to another win.
”She just kept going,” Gonzalez said. “It was a lucky touch that beat her, and she gave up a touch for turning. She’s definitely matured. She’s leading the team well. She’ a good captain. She’s been a captain for two years now. I can’t ask for more than she’s been doing. She’s been giving it all she’s got. She’s been very loyal to the team. The one thing we’ve got is the team is very loyal.”
The dedication has paid off as the Raiders are an improved team this year. The girls’ only losses have come to bigger public schools Voorhees and WW-P North. Both of their girls teams are among the best in the state. They’ve already topped last year’s win total of three, something that was a goal for Huang, who is looking to close out her scholastic career with a strong showing in the state tournament.
”I wanted to help the team work together better,” she said. “Last year, we kind of split up into different weapons instead of working as a team. For me personally, I want to do my best and get as many wins as I can.
”I wouldn’t say it’s easy,” she added of her final season. “There have been ups and downs. The most important thing is motivating the team and keeping us pumped up. Last year, we didn’t have that many wins. This year, we all stepped it up and we’ve been working really hard this year.”