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Pine-Richland girls fencing ready for postseason

March 18, 2018 GMT

The Pine-Richland fencing team is preparing for the Pittsburgh Interscholastic Fencing Association playoffs, which take place Friday at Allderdice.

The boys team is not certain if it will qualify for the postseason, but the group of mostly newcomers steadily improved throughout the season.

Playoff seeding was released after deadline for thie edition. Rams coach Brad Cellier said he is proud of the team’s progress whether they qualify or not.

“Sometimes, the difference between winning and losing is very narrow,” Cellier said. “I think in the case of the boys, there were so many matches where they were so close and probably could have won a few that they didn’t. They really started fencing better toward the end of the year.

“I think it puts us in a good position for next year.”

There’s no doubting where the girls team is headed.

With an 8-1 record, the Rams are bound for the postseason.

The group of eight girls is headlined by experienced fencers Valerie Koester, Martha Lacek and Camille Patrignani. Sarah Heckman, Shelby Petonak, Mikayla Melby, Natalie Loftus and Mia Baker have played crucial supporting roles.

The girls team presents challenges for opponents, becuase, Cellier said, the Rams field left-handed fencers.

“One of the interesting things about our team is that we have two left-handed girls,” he said. “Being left-handed is generally an advantage, so having two left-handed girls on our squad really gives us an interesting dynamic.

“Another girl who is not left-handed, she’s really good at setting up defensive actions to score touches. In fencing, you’re either attacking to score touches or defending yourself and going on the offense after that. It’s called a parry riposte, and our right-hander is very good at setting that up.”

The Pine-Richland girls have utilized their experience and technical abilities. The Rams will have an opportunity to improve on last year’s bronze-medal finish in the playoffs starting Saturday.

“I just want to make sure our girls are in a position to make it to the gold medal match,” Cellier said. “Last year, they had an opportunity to go to the gold medal match and missed it. They were so close. So were the boys, and both teams had to settle for bronze.

“For them, I just want them to get to the gold medal match, and then I think they’re good enough to win.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.