The Minutemen lived a dream, making it to the final of the NJSIAA Team Tournament for the first time in school history.
If Western, who competes in foil, could’ve changed anything on Wednesday night, it would’ve been the outcome. Mendham was handed a 16-11 setback by powerful Northern Highlands.
With the exception of the loss, everything else was perfect.
“This is the farthest we’ve gotten,” said Western, a senior co-captain. “I loved being here. It was indescribable to have a whole family traveling with you and being so successful. This was the experience of a lifetime. It was amazing.”
Western, 2-1 in her bouts versus the Highlanders, clearly enjoyed the journey. Fencing for the state championship made it even more special and memorable.
“There was a lot of support from the crowd and it was the love you feel on the team,” she said. “It sounds corny but you can feel the connection between the girls.”
Mendham knew facing Northern Highlands, which has nationally-ranked foil and sabre fencers, would be difficult.
The Highlanders’ Cindy Oh, Allison Lee and Anna Parzecki opened the match by sweeping the sabre bouts. The Minutemen closed out the first round trailing, 7-2.
“In the beginning, we had focus and intensity and also nervousness,” Western said. “That can be a killer on the strip. When we calm down, we do better.”
Foil victories by Western and Beatrice Jacobson and Megan Wallace’s epee triumph in the second round closed the gap to 11-5. Jacobson was up 4-1 against Sophia Holmqvist and pulled out a 5-4 win.
Mendham junior Kaitlyn Wallace, the state epee champion, dropped her second-round bout, losing to Northern Highlands sophomore Ashley Kester, 5-3. Shortly after, Oh prevailed over the Minutemen’s Meredith Gano, 5-1, in what proved to be the decisive match.
Shawn Osarczuk, a senior, had a pair of wins in epee for Mendham.
“It was very exciting,” Mendham coach Tom Tishman said. “It was loud. I told one of my sophomores that when you fence in this pressure cooker, next year will seem easy.”
Epee coach Patric Wallace said the Minutemen simply were “outclassed by a stronger team.”
“My hat is off to them. They deserved to win,” Wallace said.
Western hopes Mendham’s showing this season will inspire younger girls and boys to take up the sport that she finds rewarding.
“Hopefully, we’ve brought awareness and more people will join the team in the future,” she said.