Aquinas Academy fencing team sees strong growth ahead of season

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Saturday, December 29, 2018 | 9:21 AM


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With a boys team that is ballooning in numbers and enough newcomers joining to gather a girls team for the first time in three years, the future has never looked brighter for Aquinas Academy fencing.

The program’s growth over the last year, along with the returning talent, has coach John Carroll hoping the Crusaders can improve upon the boys’ bronze-medal finish at last season’s PIFA championships.

“We have three returning seniors and another nine freshmen joining, overall,” Carroll said. “We’ve gone from four fencers to 13, so that’s a big increase in number of personnel. We’re really excited about that.

“I have my three returning seniors, Harry Hardman, our No. 2 foil; Louie D’Angelo; and Anthony Buck, so we’re looking for a strong year this year. We hope to do better than last year.”

Hardman, who helped to create the program after petitioning the school, returns for his senior season after going 31-1 last year. The team captain will be joined in the starting lineup by D’Angelo, the assistant captain and only other three-year letterman on the roster. Buck, a two-year letterman, returns to provide depth and experience.

Newcomers include Andy D’Angelo, Sam Everson, Steven Giaccobe, Sam Henry, Will Hoerster, Jo Knight, Sejal Sharma, Patrick Veazey and Giovanni Vella.

In addition to expanding the roster, Carroll is also adamant about expanding the team’s training regimen during the offseason. Physical training is a pillar of the Crusaders’ preparation, but mental toughness has become a priority.

“We started a formal mental toughness training program, and by formalized, I mean we actually gave the kids formal classes in mental toughness training,” Carroll said. “They learn about the principles of mental toughness, and we reinforce those tenants throughout practice, things like the centering breath, and focusing on performance objectives. Those help in fencing, but they also go beyond that. Those are life skills.”

While developing the athletes’ fencing abilities is important, Carroll also makes sure to contextualize the lessons and how those lessons will be useful long after they put down their sabers. It’s an approach that might highlight one of the reasons the Crusaders have enjoyed such notable growth with the program.

“A lot of the growth also stems from the fact that we don’t look at it as just a varsity sport but rather as a club activity, so we have a lot of social activities and other interactions throughout the year, and it really helps build a cohesion,” Carroll said. “We’re building traditions. I think that’s important for any team.

”I believe that ritual, tradition, mental toughness. All of that ties back into life skills and reaching out to one another and acting as a team, as a cohesive group. I think that the way we approach it is different than most.”

Aquinas Academy will take on Peters Township and Seton LaSalle in their opening matches Jan. 11 at Peters Township Middle School.

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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