Aquinas Academy fencing finds strength in numbers

Friday, December 27, 2019 | 6:03 PM

The Aquinas Academy fencing program is continuing to grow, with this season’s squad counting 20 fencers, 12 of whom are primed to compete as high schoolers in Pittsburgh Interscholastic Fencing Association play.

And while there was some attrition from last year’s roster to this season’s group because of graduation, coach John Carroll said he is eager to display the versatility of his balanced team of student-athletes.

“I tease people and tell them ‘Winter is coming, and so is Aquinas fencing,’ because we have numbers,” Carroll said.

“I feel very comfortable substituting with this group. We’ll have a couple elite people, but with the other spots, we’ll be able to pull people in and out depending on how they’re fencing and who their opponent might be. That’s something that’s unique on any team in any sport, having that advantage, that flexibility in competitions.”

The interchangeability of the Crusaders’ lineup is poised to be an advantage for its strong group of boys fencers as newcomer Hunter Harrison is entering the mix with returning contributors Will Hoerster, Gio Vella, Andy D’Angelo and Sam Henry.

The boys team, which finished in a tie for third last year in PIFA, will be led by team captain Sam Everson and another returning letterman in Steven Giacobbe, who was named to the USA Fencing All-Academic team last year.

“We won’t be afraid to substitute fencers, but those are two that I definitely expect more consistency from,” Carroll said of Everson and Giacobbe.

“I think that the efforts that they put in outside of regular practice, plus the experience they have in competitive situations, is going to work in our favor.”

Sophomore Sejal Sharma will look to provide leadership to the girls team, serving as the group’s captain after gaining experience at the varsity level last season. The Crusaders also return sophomore Joanna Knight and added sophomores Izzi Trevino and Natasha Rippee, along with freshman Grace Burchill.

Trevino brings experience from the club level, and Burchill adds an interesting element to the group as a left-handed fencer.

“Sejal and Joanna are two lettermen, and they have that experience from doing the outside work beyond the practices we hold. With Izzy’s experience at the club level, I’m looking for her to add to the mix in a very positive way, too,” Carroll said.

“Plus, it’s always fun having left-handers. Theoretically, they shouldn’t fence differently, but they can pose problems for opponents because they’re just used to seeing right-handers in competition more frequently. It’s a change in the dynamic. Although there’s some new faces here, I think we have some great additions to this group.”

Aquinas Academy will open its season Jan. 10 at Oakland Catholic against North Allegheny and Peters Township.


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