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Boys’ Fencing

The Ward Melville fencing squad edged Centereach, 17-10,  Feb. 3 to clinch the League II title and looks to maintain that momentum for the county finals.

Returning All-County and All-Long Island foilist Christopher Ancona, a senior, led the way for the Patriots, winning all three of his bouts as did sophomore épéeist William Lehr.

The win lifted the Patriots to a perfect 8-0 in league, 12-1 overall. The team then went on to a championship match play at Commack High School Feb. 5, where they won, 14-13.

 

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By Bill Landon

Ward Melville was the class of the field in fencing Feb. 9 where both the boys and girls teams won the Suffolk County fencing championship at Newfield High School.

Brandeis University recruit and Patriot standout Ben Rogak, who is a four-time all-county fencer, clinched his third consecutive Suffolk title notching a 24-2 season and has amassed a 101-16 career record.

According to head coach Jeff Salmon, Rogak is the best épéeist in Ward Melville history.

Centeraeach ougars come close to defeating a powerhouse

By Bill Landon

Centereach epéeist Abir Das worried Ward Melville’s boys fencing squad. The junior had taken to the strip twice Dec. 12, outscoring his previous opponents 5-2 and 5-3. With Ward Melville ahead 13-11, and a must-win match on the line,  the fencer stepped up to face eighth-grader Will Lehr, who was 1-1 on the day. As he retied the match 4-4 and his visiting team’s crowd kept chanting, Das just kept counting.

“I tried to stay calm out on the strip,” he said. “I have a habit of counting numbers in my head to stay calm, get in the zone and set up my game. When [it’s loud] and everyone’s watching you, you need to learn to move out and up on your opponent. It’s like a chess game, so I tried to out-strategize him.”

Das rose to the challenge, edging his adversary 5-4 with his parry hit, but the Patriots dropped the hammer and swept the last two bouts to secure a 15-12 win to stay perfect on the season.

Ward Melville senior Jared Dorf fell in his first two bouts in epée, but came through when it mattered most — winning his final match 5-2 for the all-important 14th victory.

“Jared is our captain — he’s been on the team for a while — and I wasn’t sure if he could execute our plan to disengage [his opponent’s] parry and to be aggressive enough to hit the target,” Ward Melville head coach Jeff Salmon said. “We were screaming to find that moment and attack, [but at the same time] avoiding that parry, but the kids were having trouble just landing their points.”

Perfect on the night for the Patriots was sophomore sabreist Leo Takemaru, who swept his three matches 5-0, 5-2, 5-0. Junior epéeist Ben Rogak won both of his bouts, 5-1 and 5-2. His second win was the final bout of the evening, against Centereach senior James Moore.

“I was very nervous — we’ve had a very strong team in the past, but a lot of the other teams have up-and-coming fencers that we have to be careful of,” Rogak said. “I have confidence that we will be the strongest team throughout the season, but we have to grind it out, buckle down, and we need more
support from the bench.”

Moore finished 2-for-3, winning his first two matches 5-2 before falling to Rogak.

“I was energized, motivated,” Moore said. “I was recovering quickly and recovering forward, and I felt good. I came in here and I knew we were going to have a respectable meet.”

Foilist Frank DiCanio III swept all three of his bouts for Centereach, besting his opponents 5-0, 5-4 and 5-0.

First-year head coach Christina Piraino said she couldn’t be happier with her team’s performance against the powerhouse Patriots.

“The highlight was in foil — DiCanio won all three and Jarod Chang, he’s been working really hard in practice, and their hard work paid off today,” said Piraino, a Centereach alumna who graduated 10 years ago. “We were never able to do this well against Ward Melville, so I’m just so proud of them. This should give them more drive to work harder, and I told them that the next time we face them, we’re going to beat Ward Melville.”

Even still, Salmon said he’s most worried about Middle Country’s other fencing team: Newfield.

“I think they’re the second best team in the county, and it’s no secret they trained in the off-season,” the coach said of Newfield.“They have key players that have trained all year long, and they’re ready.”

Dorf said the boisterous Centereach crowd had an impact on his team’s performance, and they’ll learn from it for the meets ahead.

“It’s not an exciting moment when you lose any bout, but any good fencer is an amazing person to watch and we could feel their pride in that moment,” he said, pointing to Das’ win. “But when you face a good opponent, it shows us that we’re not the best all-around, and that we have room for improvement.”

Ward Melville's Peyton LaTourrette, on left, reaches for a touch during one of his bouts against a Huntington opponent, in the Patriots' 22-5 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 15. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Ward Melville’s prowess as fencers has helped the boys continue their undefeated streak as the Patriots made short work of Huntington Friday night on their way to a 22-5 victory, to improve to 11-0 on the season.

Ward Melville rattled off five quick victories for an early lead before Huntington answered back when Josh Yanuck blanked his opponent to put the Blue Devils on the scoreboard. The interruption would be brief though, as the Patriots won the next seven out of eight bouts to jump out to a 12-2 lead.

Ward Melville's Daniel Deto, on left, reaches for a touch during one of his bouts against a Huntington opponent, in the Patriots' 22-5 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 15. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s Daniel Deto, on left, reaches for a touch during one of his bouts against a Huntington opponent, in the Patriots’ 22-5 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 15. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville sophomore sabreist Daniel Solomon won all three of his bouts without allowing a single touch. Fellow sabreist Daniel Deto, a junior, notched three victories of his own, as the national championship qualifier bested his challengers 5-3, 5-2 and 5-0.

Ward Melville head coach Jeff Salmon said he was pleased with Deto’s comeback performance on the strip, which helped him shake off a recent slump.

“Danny Deto had a couple of bad outings in a row, so it’s nice to see him where he was four or five meets ago,” he said.

Ward Melville senior Stephen Jackson led the way in foil, winning all three of his matches 5-1, 5-0 and 5-2.

“I did exceptionally well today — I was actually very surprised that I was able to win all three of my bouts they way I did,” said Jackson, an All-County player and junior Olympic qualifier. “At our last meet against Commack I was a little off balance, but today I was able to keep my focus the whole time.”

Ward Melville junior Michael Jaklitsch, another junior Olympic qualifier, also swept his bouts, as the épéeist defeated both of his challengers, 5-1.

Ward Melville senior Peyton LaTourrette took victories in both of his appearances as well, winning 5-4 and 5-1 in foil, as did junior sabreist Jack Rohan, who won both of his bouts 5-2.

“Today wasn’t my best, I had a couple of equipment malfunctions,” said LaTourrette, an All-Long Island player and national champion qualifier. “But that happens in fencing and you’ve just got to work through it.”

Ward Melville's Stephen Jackson competes during a bout against a Huntington opponent in the Patriots' 22-5 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 15. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s Stephen Jackson competes during a bout against a Huntington opponent in the Patriots’ 22-5 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 15. Photo by Bill Landon

The senior foilsit said the team’s consistency and winning ways are directly attributed to the team’s coaches, and Jackson agreed.

“We have a really great coaching staff, they’re supportive and they dedicate a lot of their time,” Jackson said. “They help us learn how to be the best fencers we can be and I’m really thankful that I have their support.”

Yanuck a foilist, won both of his matches for Huntington, 5-0 and 5-3. Rounding out the scoring for Huntington was Jack O’Heir with a 5-4 victory in épée, and Dillon Collier and Dawson Wallace, who both contributed 5-1 wins in foil. With the loss, Huntington fell to 3-6 on the season.

With the win, Ward Melville has won 225 individual bouts on the season, while dropping just 72.

“We start from the bottom up and we maintain from the bottom up, so by the time they’re my seniors or upperclassman, they’re already prepared, so I don’t have to coach them much,” Salmon said. “I do all my preparation in the gym and I work more with the younger ones so I don’t have to work so hard at the end, so it’s a pyramid strategy.”

Ward Melville, which is now on a 135-match win streak, will host Half Hollow Hills on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.