Unleash the Vipers

After once again maintaining their undefeated regular season streak, the Vipers strive for success while fueled by their unyielding team bond.

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By Cynthia Chang

Through the peculiarities of the 2022 season, the Vipers, Stuyvesant’s girls’ fencing team, collectively underwent a new experience that fortified the team’s strength. Facing the challenge of adapting to a new team, the Vipers grew closer, creating deep bonds with one another. Remarkably, the team fought their way to the top and clinched silver in the playoffs last season. Fuelled by that accomplishment, they aim to repeat their success and secure yet another coveted medal this year. 

The Vipers started off their 2023 season with a hard-fought victory over John Jay Campus, narrowly outscoring them 86-82. Using this strong performance as a foundation, the team progressively strengthened their performance throughout the season. Striking a delicate balance between the epee and foil teams was a crucial factor in their success last season, and they continued to refine this equilibrium in their current season. In the majority of their regular-season matches, the Vipers accumulated the maximum of 90 points, with both the epee and foil teams contributing 45 points each. Their 2023 season featured many overwhelming victories, exemplified by their 90-23 and 90-31 victories over Long Island City as well as their final regular-season game against NEST+M, in which they won 90-56. Traditionally, Bronx Science posed a significant challenge for the Vipers in individual tournaments and playoffs, but this season, John Jay Campus emerged as the Vipers’ inter-division rival, becoming the only team to prevent the Vipers from attaining maximum points. Regarding the evolving PSAL fencing landscape, “The league itself is improving. I think the quality of fencers overall seems to be getting better. This year, two of the teams in our division acquired experienced players in their foil squads, making the competition much more difficult for us,” Coach Joel Winston said. In spite of the increasing competition, the Vipers once again completed their regular season undefeated, maintaining their remarkable streak of over 16 undefeated seasons.

Despite encountering roadblocks such as injuries and illness,  the Vipers continued to rally as a unified force, surmounting various hurdles on their path to the playoffs. This season, the Vipers saw the addition of six of their total eight underclassmen, highlighting the importance of incorporating a new generation of Vipers into their existing team structures. Despite the challenge, the new Vipers took this in stride, adapting well to the conditions of the team. Beyond their grueling training sessions and fierce competitions, the team draws strength from their shared traditions and team bonding activities. Weekly team dinners on Fridays serve as an opportunity to unwind while building connections between the Vipers. “To the captains, it doesn’t matter if we get first or last; this dinner is yet another chance for us to bond as a team,” senior and co-captain Carina Lee said. The Vipers also partake in the tradition of watching a fencing-related movie each season, ranging from The Princess Bride to Zorro, fostering camaraderie and creating enjoyable moments of team bonding.

In order to succeed as a fencer, raw athleticism is not enough by itself. Rather, fencing demands a delicate balance of technique, mental acuity, and explosive power for success. The Vipers have dedicated themselves to refining these aspects throughout the season, working to hone their conditioning, master strategic maneuvers, and perfect precise footwork through games like “glove box.” In addition to footwork, glove box also works the fencer’s distance and timing skills. Only requiring a glove to hold and a partner, glove box has fencers take turns trying to hit their opponents with their gloves while only allowing each attacker two steps and a lunge to reach their opponent. Adding on, senior and co-captain Cynthia Chang emphasized the collaboration still prominent within the individualized sport. “Fencing is typically an individual sport, so we’re always working towards improving our own techniques as well as helping each other try new methods that we’ve learned from our private coaches,” Chang said.

As the season nears its conclusion, the team directs its gaze toward the future. Recognizing the short fencing season spanning only a few months during the school year, there is a strong emphasis on the importance of maintaining practice even during the off-season. With the imminent departure of the graduating seniors, the team looks to the promising newcomers to uphold the mantle of excellence while preserving the cherished traditions, games, and jokes that have become an integral part of their fencing legacy.