New look, same expectations for Pine-Richland fencers

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Saturday, December 30, 2017 | 11:00 PM


The Pine-Richland fencing team will open its 2018 season Friday at Oakland Catholic with a dual meets against Fox Chapel and Winchester Thurston.

The boys and girls teams won bronze medals at last year's WPIAL championships. Bringing home postseason hardware this season won't be easy, but coach Brad Cellier said his teams are rounding into combative units.

“This year, I would expect our girls to be competitive again, with an opportunity for them to win a medal,” Cellier said. “The boys, we graduated a few of our starters. So, I'm not necessarily expecting the same result right away for our boys team, but they'll be able to compete.

“We have experienced fencers returning for both squads, so I think the outlook is positive for the season.”

The eight girls and four boys who make up the Pine-Richland fencing team have been together and practicing since the fall under the watchful eyes of Cellier and coach Ron Schmiedel.

Of the 12 athletes, six are returning contributors from last year's bronze medal-winning teams.

For the girls, Valerie Koester, Martha Lacek and Camille Patrignani played parts in helping the Rams girls earn a medal at last year's WPIAL competition. Newcomers Sarah Heckman, Shelby Petonak, Mikayla Melby, Natalie Loftus and Mia Baker have shown enough that Cellier is confident in their abilities.

On the boys side, Ivan Werne, Eric Maloney and James Baxter return from last year's team. Luke Yowan is the lone first-year participant in the group.

A couple of Pine-Richland first-year fencers have previously been in competitive settings at an academy where Cellier teaches. That experience should help the rookies.

“I also look for contributions from Mia Baker and Luke Yowan, who have been training at Fencing Sports Academy International before joining the Pine-Richland High School teams,” Cellier said. “Our other new fencers look very promising based on early practices, so I am looking forward to their contributions, as well.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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