MORRISTOWN _ Katherine Santsevich was in position to strike with the score tied but didn't reach when she faced an opponent from Watchung Hills in a "B" strip epee bout at the Santelli Tournament.
Santsevich, a sophomore from West Morris, hesitated and, shortly after, was struck and was edged, 5-4.
The setback was Santsevich's first of the tournament and left her with a 6-1 record after morning competition at the Morristown Armory on Sunday, Jan. 4.
Santsevich, who took the gold in epee by going undefeated at the Morris Knolls Freshman & Sophomore Tournament just eight days earlier, said the loss left her "a little upset and frustrated" but provided her with a valuable lesson.
"I went forward but didn't reach," Santsevich said. "I went too quickly. After that, I told myself 'You have to get it together.'"
In the afternoon, fencing on the "A" strip, Santsevich, who began fencing in fifth grade but got serious about the sport last year, went back on a roll, triumphing in seven more matches.
"Katherine isn't very athletic looking but she's got a great sense of timing and distance," West Morris coach Gladys Berardi said. "Fencing is a mental game and Katherine is always improving. It's always 'Do I want to attack? Do I want to defend?'"
For the majority of her afternoon bouts, Santsevich seemed to go with being aggressive.
"I have quick reflexes," said Santsevich, a "C" strip fencer as a freshman. "I don't want to fall into what my opponent wants me to fall into. I try to be patient. I can't be rash because that could cost me the bout."
Santsevich began fencing because her father signed her up thinking she'd be good at it. For five years, she worked out at the Morris Fencing Club. In 2014, she joined the Medeo Fencing Club in Bridgewater.
Berardi sees a fine future ahead for Santsevich, noting that she'd likely be on "A" strip from now on.
"Katherine is taking the initiative and going to her own events," she said. "It's really helped her."
Morris Knolls turned in a strong showing, especially in sabre behind the efforts of junior Kathleen David and sophomore Emily Huber.
"We've come a long way as individuals, squads and a team," Golden Eagles coach Sara Haase said. "We've been through a few building years so I am very proud of them."
David, an "A" strip fencer, has been through the growing pains. That's why she appreciates what she and her teammates have accomplished.
"We've invested a lot of time and dedicated ourselves to fencing," David said. "You need a passion for it and we all enjoy it. We want to win and do well. Winning isn't everything but it makes fencing a lot more fun."
Sara Cummings, now graduated, got David involved. Megan Sheldon, an epee fencer, persuaded Huber to give it a try. Huber, also involved in soccer and softball at Morris Knolls, is glad she did.
"I'm really grateful I did it," said Huber, who said confidence is what makes a good fencer.
Columbia repeated as Santelli Tournament champion with Montgomery and Ridge taking second and third, respectively.
NOTE: Photo gallery below.
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