Swordplay is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about high school athletics. But at Rye Country Day, the 21-year-old fencing program has long been home to some of the school’s finest athletes, many of whom have gone on to fence for colleges and in national and international events.
“Wildcat fencing is about striving to do one’s best and enjoying what is a wonderful sport,” said head coach Joe Rue. “Our goal is consistent with our team philosophy. We want the students to give 100 percent and feel proud of being members of this program. We expect them to display exemplary sportsmanship on and off the strip.”
Rue went on to say that no two teams are alike – each has its own personality – and that he and the rest of the coaching staff require the Wildcats to strive to be the best fencers they can be. With two meets already in the books this season, Rye Country Day’s athletes have quickly proven their mettle.
The Wildcats began the season in stunning form December 4 at Hackley by sweeping all three varsity events. The girls’ foil team, led by senior captain Deelan Ayhan, defeated the Hornets 11-5. Rue cited Maria de Lera’s return to the strip as essential; she fenced with blinding speed and pinpoint accuracy. Newcomers Katherine Dean and Bonnie Ishiguro also performed well. On the boys’ side, senior captains Matt Rose and Eugene Vinitsky spearheaded another 11-5 victory. T.J. Sarda, Robert Kim, and Chris Geslin added to the superlative performance. In the epee competition, senior captain Will Gleysteen propelled the team to a strong 13-3 win. Ryan Chernin, Jon Madorsky, Hannah Vinitsky, Scott Wieman, David Yelsey and Ven Sorkin, a newcomer with national and international experience, rounded out the stellar showing.
Although they fought valiantly, the Wildcats dropped all three varsity events December 10, at home against an excellent Hackley team. Rose was dominant against the Hornets, but his four victories were not enough in the 9-7 loss. He remained positive despite the ldefeat, however, and his attitude is reflective of the proud program.
“I’m definitely happy with my own performance, and I know the team will improve overall as the season progresses,” said Rose, who began fencing as a sophomore. “I started with the wrestling team to get involved with a macho sport, but an injury ended my career. Since joining, I’ve fallen in love with fencing – it’s a great mix between strength and intelligence – and it’s also the best way to relieve stress.”
The girls’ team ran into a very strong Hornets’ unit that pressured them early and often. Hackley jumped out to a 7-0 lead, but the Wildcats showed heart by refusing to give up. They won five of the remaining nine matches in the 11-5 loss. Senior captain Kristi Licare jump-started the comeback with two wins. Ayhan also finished with two wins while de Lera recorded one.
“It was a tough loss, but we’re a fairly young team that lost a couple of seniors,” said Licare, who joined the team as an 8th grader. “We were top-three in the league last year, and I think we can get back there this season.”
The Wildcats’ epee crew was also surprised by a powerful Hackley team. Hannah Vinitsky, Jon Madorsky, David Yelsey, and Ven Sorkin gained RCDS’ four victories in the 12-4 loss.
The varsity teams all dropped to 1-1, but both junior varsity foil teams made the leap to 2-0 with identical 12-4 wins against the Hornets.
“We take pride in all our fencers, past and present,” said Rue. “They represent us well with dignity, respect, and a significant amount of passion and talent.”
The team’s next meet is December 18, on the road at Irvington High School.