Fencing team says farewell to seniors

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The COVID-19 pandemic has put the world on pause, and led to the cancellation of numerous events and activities. On March 12, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that PSAL activities were to be suspended indefinitely, and on March 15, it was announced schools would also be suspended. With the decision to not reopen schools for the 2019-20 school year, PSAL spring sports are effectively over. These also represent the last seasons for graduating seniors, who are not able to participate in their final year.

The girls’ fencing team had three seniors who were also this year’s captains: Elizabeth Brandwein, Rachel Matayev, and Camila Barrios. Elizabeth and Rachel joined their freshmen year, becoming starters for the epee team which was undefeated in their division and earned third place in playoffs last year. Camila transferred to Townsend her sophomore year and then joined the team, earning fourth place in foil for the 2019 Novices Tournament and winning Most Improved for Sports Awards last year. All three girls were ambitious and looked forward to this year’s season, hoping to defend the school’s first place standing in the division. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the PSAL spring season has been cancelled, disappointing the whole team. 

I joined the team the same time as Camila did, and we both decided to fence foil. We even found out that we were in the same chemistry class, so naturally I became very close with her. We both shared similar experiences, struggling during our first practice and improving together as we fenced for two years. We would sometimes go home together, laughing about what happened during practice, discussing our hopes for the next season, talking about colleges, and raving over food as we became hungry after a two hour practice. I also bonded with Rachel and Elizabeth as they were very welcoming to the new members and always showed us encouragement. Since they were only a year older than me, I could relate to them. It was easy to talk to them and they never hesitated to offer advice about not only fencing, but different classes, tests, colleges, and more. Rachel always cheered us up when we were down, and Elizabeth would often bake for us. As time passed, we weren’t just teammates to each other, but friends. 

Junior Katie Hsu expressed her admiration for the seniors, writing that “all of the seniors are so inspirational and they really persevere through challenges both on the strip and as our captains. Even with COVID-19 interrupting our last season together, they constantly made an effort to make sure everyone is doing well and always try to keep up the energy of the team. In the past, they have always shown us that the battles we face are merely a split second of unconfident thinking. During matches, relaxing, and having a clear mind were some of the most valuable lessons we have been taught as fencers.” 

Elizabeth, in addition to being the co-captain of the girls’ team, was the manager for the boys’ fencing team this year. She constantly showed her support for the boys and encouraged them to fence to their full potential. Junior Eric Han wrote, “Liz isn’t just a fencer. She’s been there every step of the way this season, and the boys are pretty lucky to have gotten both a manager and an amazing person.” 

Seniors did not just shape me as a fencer, but as a person as well. They taught me resilience, determination, teamwork, and strength. Elizabeth was our extremely passionate leader who genuinely enjoyed giving us tips. Rachel was kind and understanding, making sure we felt like we belonged on the team. Camila was thoughtful and easy to get along with, making practice enjoyable.

They made me look forward to going to practice everyday and inspired me to step up next year. The team will truly miss them and will always be grateful for their support, kindness, and leadership. 

Photo courtesy of Kristine Kong.