ROCKAWAY _ Willamina Groething considered herself unathletic before joining the Morris Hills High School fencing team as a freshman.
Now a senior, Groething has made great strides over the last four seasons. On her wish list? A trip to the districts.
Groething very well could be on her way.
On Friday, Jan. 4, Groething went 3-0 in her epee bouts, sending her individual record to 8-1. Groething's superb showing also was beneficial to the Scarlet Knights, who defeated West Morris, 19-8.
"If I could make it to districts, it would be a testament to work ethic and all the time I've put in," Groething said. "It would be worth all of the time spent under four layers of heavy cotton and a layer of plastic in the summer."
Against West Morris, Groething, a Mount Olive resident and student at Morris Hills' Academy of Mathematics, Science and Engineering, prevailed 5-2 and 5-1. In her third bout of the evening, she went up against Wolfpack junior Stephanie Egleston and fell behind, 3-0, before winning, 5-4.
"I told Willamina to make changes, to change her strategy, after she told me what happened," Morris Hills co-coach Lisa Campi said. "I wanted her to beat, pick and take the blade."
Just like that, Groething was back in it. She made it 3-1 then 4-2 before registering the last three points.
Her favorite touch is putting the point above an opponent's wrist. Groething toiled to perfect her arm and wrist touches while competing for the Morris Fencing Club.
Although elated about her success and progress, Groething is equally excited that Morris Hills' epee squad, which also features sophomores Jackie Lanigan and Mia Nazzaro and junior Laura Ng, is 3-0 thus far this season.
Jennifer Stranz, another senior, went 2-1 in sabre for the Scarlet Knights.
Stranz said she fared well because of the support offered by her teammates.
"I listened to them," said Stranz, who lives in Lincoln Park and attends the academy. "We're all close and give each other tips."
In this instance, the other girls advised Stranz "to break up the tempo."
"They wanted me to break up the tempo and not go at the same pace forward and backward," Stranz said.
Stranz, who prides herself on her defensive motions, attends the academy, too. The sabre unit, comprised of Stranz, Karen Kong and Alicja Tomaszewski, is riding high and is 3-0.
Tomaszewski, a freshman, was praised by Campi for "listening and fitting in." Groething and Stranz, Campi noted, are valuable to the team because they are strong leaders.
West Morris had two standouts - juniors Erin Dietsche and Egleston - in its season opener.
Dietsche triumphed in all three of her foil bouts. Egleston went 2-1 in epee.
The Wolfpack are rebuilding after losing several talented veteran fencers to graduation. West Morris' roster is dotted by freshmen and sophomores.
"Of our fencers, only Erin has been to states," West Morris coach Natalie Vasquez said. "We're starting from the ground up. The sabres haven't gone above the 'C' strip."
Vasquez feels tri-captains Dietsche, Egleston and Katie Dickson will provide excellent guidance for the young team.
"Erin is very dedicated," Vasquez said. "Stephanie likes to motivate the rest of the squad. Katie is one of our two seniors."
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