CHATHAM _ With Morris Knolls ahead, 13-12, Galen Polise did her part, winning her epee bout to pull Chatham even.
After that, Polise, a senior co-captain, returned to being a cheerleader, providing encouragement to her teammates.
"You've got this! You know you do!" Polise yelled to classmate Christine Cremonni, who was on the strip for the decisive bout.
With all eyes upon her, including the members of the boys teams, Cremonni came through, defeating the Golden Eagles' Kaitlin Rush, 5-2, to lift the Cougars to a 14-13 win in their fencing season opener on Monday night.
Cremmoni capped an excellent showing by Chatham's epee squad, which went 9-0. Besides Polise and Cremonni, Skyler Brown-Dorn went 3-0 in her bouts.
"Morris Knolls beat us last year so this was pretty amazing," said Polise, who gave up only three touches all night. "I was screaming at the end of the match. It was so exciting. It's always nice to win the first one."
The Cougars, in their second season of varsity competition, received a stellar effort from Brown-Dorn. The junior pulled the Cougars within one, 13-12. Brown-Dorn had a plan and didn't succumb to the pressure.
"I was just trying not to do anything stupid," Brown-Dorn said. "I made sure I slowed down. Usually, I'm rushing."
Chatham coach Chris Palmer was pleased to see Cremonni, who has fenced for only two years, prevail and secure the win.
"Christine does very well under pressure," Palmer said. "She's a hard worker. She's a great person to have on the team and has provided strong leadership as a co-captain."
Polise, Browning-Dorn and Cremonni weren't the only Cougars to turn in fine showings. Elaina Clougherty contributed by going 2-1 in sabre.
Going into the match, Morris Knolls coach Roger Jones knew Chatham would be tough. He was well-aware of the the Cougars' prowess in epee.
In its opening-day match, the Golden Eagles fell to West Essex, 14-13.
Still, there were several bright spots for Morris Knolls. Sophomore Sara Cummings went 3-0 in sabre while junior Alana Dickman and senior Amanda Poris went each went 3-0 in foil.
Cummings has impressed Jones with how rapidly she's learned.
"Sara just broke into varsity and she's doing great," Jones said. "She's very coachable and works hard. Sara's got good form and is avoiding bad habits."
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