After winning the city championship for the past four years, Stuyvesant’s boys fencing team had high expectations going into this season, and performed well, finishing with a 10-0 record. However, at the city championship single elimination tournament, the fencers finished second in total team points after coming in second place in foil and third place in épée. The tournament was held at the Nat Holman Gymnasium on City College of New York’s campus, on Sunday, November 20.
In foil matches, fencers can only score a point by touching the opponent’s torso, whereas in épée, a touch can be scored anywhere on the body except the facemask. Stuyvesant dominated the competition in the early rounds to reach the semifinals in both events. With four teams remaining in each event, the team faced Staten Island Technical High School (MSIT) in épée.
Stuyvesant dug itself a deep hole right from the start, losing its first four bouts and getting into a 10-3 deficit in touches. However, the team slowly climbed back and tied the score at 29-29. The strong MSIT team, which began its practices two weeks earlier than others, was led by junior Mitchell Revich, who won all three of his bouts. It overpowered Stuyvesant by a score of 45-39.
“We knew going in that MSIT and Hunter were going to be very tough in épée,” coach Joel Winston said.
The épée team however, performed admirably considering that it lost two key starters from last year’s championship team, Andrei Tapai (’11) and Rienzi Gokea (’11). Inexperience could have also played a factor, as this was only the second season that épée was part of the PSAL championship tournament.
As the épée fencers were playing their matches, the foil team was locked in a tight battle with Hunter College High School. Down 18-23, sophomore Philip Shin led a roaring comeback by Stuyvesant to take the lead 30-29. Juniors Sasson Rafailov and Adam Schorin also chipped in to help fend off Hunter 45-39, as over 100 spectators looked on.
Stuyvesant’s foil team faced Beacon High School in the finals, and started out with a lot of energy. Schorin and Shin won their first two bouts to jumpstart the team to a 10-6 lead. However, the team proceeded to lose 24 of the following 32 touches and fell behind with a score of 18-30. Though the Stuyvesant fencers continued to fight hard, they wound up on the losing end of a 45-31 final score.
Hunter High School won the épée finals, and the overall tournament, edging out Stuyvesant, which finished second.
The teammates were disappointed that they could not keep their championship streak going. “If you’re not first, you’re last. I really would’ve liked to get that five-in-a-row,” Schorin said in an e-mail interview.
Several team members attributed their loss to lack of focus and effort. “Beacon’s advantage was effort,” Schorin said. “Their fencers work hard all year round while I think we tended to slack off a bit this season.
“Throughout the season I noticed, and was very upset with, a general lack of hype and team spirit,” Ravailov said in an e-mail interview. “This loss serves as a reminder that we are not, and never will be, bulletproof.”
On the other hand, some fencers were still optimistic about their performance. “We all tried our best, and we came through,” Shin said. “Even though the last bout we didn’t win, we tried our best, and that’s all that counts.”
“[We knew] Beacon would be strong in foil,” Winston said. “We came in silver. Second place isn’t bad.”
Winston, like many of the fencers, is hoping for better luck in the following season. “Maybe next year, [Hunter] will lose their senior épée player […] so the playing field will be a little easier.” Winston said. “Our foil team will look good next year, and we’ll see what happens with the épée team.”
Next reason, the team will have three returning starters, all of whom showed promise in the tournament by winning bouts under pressure, as well as several talented substitutes who will likely move into starting roles. “We had a couple strong showings from our substitutes, Noam Dorogoyer and Sasson Ravailov,” senior and co-captain Simon Gurvets said. “They did very well when called upon in substitute rolls, so this gives me great hope for next year.”
“We’ll be up there again, whether it’s gold or silver,” Winston said.