The Cardinal fencers were defeated by the University Red Devils on March 21 at home. The boys lost 3-6 overall and the girls lost 4-5 overall. The last time the Cardinal boys lost to University was in 2008, and the girls last lost in 2006.
The Cardinals were already worried before the match. They knew that both of University’s teams had very good fencers: senior Draper Dayton on the boys’, and junior Ever Marinelli on the girls’. Those concerns were well-founded, as Marinelli and Dayton would go on to win every one of their bouts.
However, given the history of wins against the Red Devils, both the girls who would be fencing and senior girls’ co-captain Esme Cohen were confident that they could still take the match. “I think the only reason we’re scared is because another team told us that we’re gonna lose.” Cohen said. “Galileo came up to us and were like, ‘University is gonna crush you.’ But then we also beat [Galileo] really easily. With our subs.” They were expecting to go 6-3 in their favor; Marinelli was considered enough of a threat that they didn’t expect to beat her with any fencer.
Meanwhile, the boys were worrying about Dayton, who had previously been out due to a back injury. “Draper [is] a big step for them,” Lowell head coach Scott Cunningham said. “He’s a very strong fencer, probably the strongest in the league this year, so it’s huge for them that we weren’t expecting him.”
The match began with both teams introducing themselves as usual. In the first bout, junior Jonas Castillo lost 1-5, a sign of what was to come. Sophomore Aiden Scribner lost with the same score right afterwards.
A scorekeeper announced that the girls would be fencing next, and the boys and girls would alternate. University head coach Susie Smith suddenly objected to this, saying that it wasn’t what they agreed to. University claimed that because one of their girls, Marinelli, was injured, she had to fence all of her bouts in quick succession, while Lowell argued that University had never come forward with it before the match. Lowell conceded and continued on with the boys’ bouts.
After the minor controversy, senior boys’ co-captain Raymond McMillan won 5-4 following a tense comeback, but that was followed by Castillo losing another 1-5. Scribner followed with a mildly better 2-5.
Scribner, whose tactics are particularly aggressive and usually have him lunge past the opposing fencer, and at the suggestion of University assistant coach Chuck Lucasey, ended up receiving a yellow card for getting too close to Reed twice and allegedly punching him both times. This, and the overhearing of the same coach suggest a black card, caused significant unrest within the Cardinals’ peanut gallery. “They would think [rebuttals] or they would whisper it to each other but they would never like, ‘[Aiden] should get a black card,’ like the way they did today. Which was kinda new, kinda interesting, kinda fun,” Cohen said.
Continuing on, McMillan won once again, this time 5-2 against Evans. Castillo then lost in a close 4-5 to Schwartz. Junior Wyeth Marshall lost 3-5 against Sebastian Fisher. Lowell boys made one last victory in the last bout, as freshman Milo Garde beat Schwartz 5-3.
The girls had a similarly ominous start compared to the boys, although this time, senior Ella Houweling began with a 5-4 win. Sophomore Madeline Yap lost her bout 2-5 after a minor spat between the coaches and audience–Lowell had asked for the opposing fencer, Marinelli, to put on longs socks as her ankles were exposed and could be struck by a foil, which caused University’s audience to audibly chastise Lowell. One parent was heard yelling, “Are you really going to be this petty? Take [Lowell] down!” Immediately after the bout restarted, University asked for Yap to put her hair up, as it was long-hanging and could obstruct a foil making contact.
Junior Jordan Kosai won the next bout 5-4, followed by Houweling losing 0-5, and Yap losing 4-5. Kosai then won a second time, this time at 5-1 touches. Houweling again lost 0-5, but Yap won with another 5-1, meaning the next bout would decide the match. Unfortunately for the Cardinal girls, Kosai lost 0-5.
By the end of the match, Cunningham was disappointed in his team’s performance. “We should have won. It was possible for us to win and we didn’t do it,” he said. “I knew this match was gonna be incredibly competitive so I tried to you know, be more competitive, pull out more tricks and everything.”
“I think that they thought they had more of a chance this time, so they were more willing to fight for it,” Cohen said in response to why the coaches acted the way they did this time. “I mean they were never nice in the past, but they were just not outwardly rude. They were a little bit like, more subtle, like they would roll their eyes but they wouldn’t like roll their eyes and say something, you know.” She was also glad that Mr. Alex Chang, a math teacher who usually referees matches at Lowell, got his students to come and observe and match University’s peanut gallery.
“[University] was really, less unsportsmanlike, more like, overly serious. They seemed really hell-bent on winning. And intense,” Cohen said. “In this league especially, because everyone’s kinda chill in high school fencing.”