Jukub Pienkowski and Mary Getzoni pose during fencing practice at...

Jukub Pienkowski and Mary Getzoni pose during fencing practice at Cold Spring Harbor on Tuesday. Credit: Neil Miller

Coach Dennis Daley is well aware that Cold Spring Harbor is not the first school that comes to mind when talking about Long Island fencing.

At least, for now.

The Seahawks' girls and boys fencing teams went seven years without a win, often being forced to forfeit due to having too few athletes to field full squads for each weapon discipline. But this season, the girls team defeated Wheatley, 14-13, and the boys team has recorded two wins - a 14-13 win over Garden City and a 16-11 triumph over Jericho.

“It was a relief — you can hear the whole team sigh in relief of winning a match,” Daley said of the girls' win over Wheatley.

This is Daley’s second season with Cold Spring Harbor after coaching at Garden City and Half Hollow Hills. He spent the 2022-23 season coaching just 17 total boys and girls, not enough to even field the nine needed for each side’s sabre, foil and epee teams. Daley — who is coaching with his son, Conor — said many of the fencers were focused on individual bouts rather than team meets as a whole.

Things are different this year as the Seahawks roster 27 fencers. Players helped recruit friends to give the sport a try. Daley said the biggest difference from last season has to do with each player buying into the team-first mindset, supporting others’ bouts just as much as their own.

“Believing in themselves is really what they’re doing,” Daley said. “... They’re developing themselves as a team, a family and as fencers.”

For Jakub Pienkowski, a senior who has been on the team since he was a freshman and fenced through the boys 0-9 season last year, the most important thing Daley provides the program is stability.  Cold Spring Harbor had new coaches in both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.

“When I first came in, it was like an experiment. Nobody really knew what they were doing,” Pienkowski said. “... Now that we have Coach Daley, it’s a tremendous change, we’re winning meets for the first time.”

This year, Pienkowski was able to experience his first win.

“Winning it as a team, [we saw] the shock on the other team’s faces,” Pienkowski said. “They just got beat by Cold Spring Harbor, the team that never wins. So it was just absolutely awesome.”

Mary Getzoni joined the girls team as a sophomore after boys captain Sebastian Monterroso convinced her to take up the sport. A year after going 0-10, Getzoni and the rest of the girls fencing team started the 2023-24 season differently against Wheatley.

“It was just so rewarding,” Getzoni said. “It was our first meet of the year, and nobody was expecting to win this season.”

And that’s what Daley said the wins and close calls — like a meet against Hewlett where Cold Spring Harbor lost by just a few bouts — represent: proof. It’s a tangible example of the work Daley and his fencers have put in, switching the mindset from impossibility to possibility.

“[Daley] makes us want to win more than ever,” Getzoni said. “I think that’s what drives us to get better.”

Nobody is under any illusion that this is suddenly a leading fencing team. There’s a lot of work to be done to take a 1-7 girls team and a 2-6 boys team to the next level. But the foundation is set. Results are beginning to show, and Getzoni has a vision of where this Seahawks team can be a year from now.

“I see us winning more, “ she said. “More kids going to counties… [five years from now], maybe even the Long Island championships.”

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