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Lauren Cappello

Ward Melville's Ivanna Zavala-Arbelaez, on left, was the only Patriot to top Newfield's Ally Hu. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The stakes were high for the Patriots Monday night.

The last time Ward Melville’s girls fencing team faced off against Newfield it won by a single point, which was too close for comfort for head coach Kyle Hempe. With an undefeated streak on the line, the Patriots showed they learned from their mistakes, making a statement with an 18-9 home win Jan. 22.

Ward Melville’s Julia Duffy swept her opponents, winning both of her épée bouts. Photo by Bill Landon

“They were really fired up at home,” Hempe said. “We know Newfield is the second best team in our league, and they were really coming for it. So we went out, we worked as hard as we could, won a little earlier than we thought we would and we’re happy about that.”

Early wins came in the form of all three weapons. Ward Melville (10-0, 6-0 League II) took the second two of three in each of the first rounds of sabre, foil and épée.

Ward Melville’s Lauren Cappello started things off for the Patriots, putting the first point in the win column. The junior swept her sabre matches, 5-1, 5-2 and 5-2. Fellow sabre specialist Bridget Becchina, a senior, did the same while outscoring her challengers 15-4.

”We knew what we were coming into — I don’t think any of us were too worried — we knew we would have to bring it in each bout,” Becchina said. “I had confidence in the team, we had confidence in ourselves, and knew they have to beat us. We go out there and we just fence, and that usually works.”

Newfield (9-3, 5-2) was toughest in foil. Senior Ally Hu, who finished the day 2-1, took home victories in her second (5-1) and third (5-0) appearances out on the strip.

“[She’s] their strongest fencer, so was very happy with Ivanna Zavala-Arbeleaz, to see her come out with a victory there,” Hempe said. “But Bridget and Lauren are always solid for us in sabre so I’m happy for them and their performances, too.”

Ward Melville’s Catherine Cao, on left, gets a touch her Newfield opponent. Photo by Bill Landon

Junior épéeist Catherine Cao and senior Julia Duffy also swept their Newfield challengers.

“I’m proud that we came out with the win,” Duffy said. “Newfield gave us a run for our money, but we lean on all of the hard work that we put in, and reap the rewards.”

Junior sabreist Olivia Calise, who had dropped her first two bouts, blanked her opponent, 5-0, in the meet-clinching matchup.

With three meets left before the postseason Hempe said he’s confident going down the stretch, especially since the Patriots won’t be matching up with the Wolverines over that span.

“We’re not as worried, but we’ll go full force,” he said. “We’re happy to be in the position that we’re in.”

Ward Melville is back in action facing Centereach (5-7, 2-5) today, Jan. 25, at 4 p.m. Newfield will host Sayville today at 6 p.m.

Centereach foilist Rebecca Koenig Vinicombe clashes with Ward Melville's Lara Obedin. Obedin won her bout 5-2 in the Patriots' 22-5 win over the Cougars on Dec 19. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

When you think of fencing, you think of Ward Melville High School.

The fencing dynasty has been the team to beat on Long Island for years, and Saturday was no different. The Patriots traveled to Centereach for a meet where, as expected, the team dominated the card despite dropping the first two bouts to defeat the Cougars 22-5.

First on the strip for Centereach was sophomore sabreist Gail Aphra Laurino, who prevailed over her challenger with a 5-4 victory. Classmate Naomi Newen followed with a 5-4 win of her own in sabre, to put her team out front 2-0.

“They’re a little intimidating, but it’s also a good experience,” Laurino said. “It makes you play harder, build up your endurance and get stronger.”

The Patriots hit their stride, and claimed the next three matches.

Centereach épéeist Abigail Cornelia fences against Ward Melville's Arianna Ferretti in the Patriots' 22-5 win over the Cougars on Dec. 19. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach épéeist Abigail Cornelia fences against Ward Melville’s Arianna Ferretti in the Patriots’ 22-5 win over the Cougars on Dec. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

First, sophomore Emily Huang notched Ward Melville’s first victory in sabre, 5-1. Sole senior Gabrielle Petrie opened foil with a win, blanking her opponent 5-0. Fellow foilist Ivanna Zavala-Arbelaez, a freshman, scored the Patriots’ third bout, a defeating her challenger 5-1, to help her team lead the meet 3-2.

Centereach freshman foilist Rebecca Koenig Vinicombe answered back with a win as a second-year varsity fencer, shutting out her opponent 5-0 to tie the meet.

But from there, Ward Melville’s fencers showed why they are still the team to beat this season, despite dropping their second meet since 2000 earlier this season. The Patriots took 19 of the next 21 bouts to claim the meet.

“We fenced this team last week, so we had a pretty good feel as to where they’re at,” Ward Melville head coach Peter Freiss said. “We were sharp today. It was a great sharing of the load from top to bottom from eighth-graders to our senior.”

Undefeated in epée was Ward Melville junior Arianna Ferretti, who won her matches 5-2, 5-4 and 5-1.

“Arianna is our anchor in epée — she was very strong today,” Freiss said. “Lara Obedin came into the second round and won her two bouts, and she too fenced very, very well.”

Obedin, a junior foilist, took her matches 5-2 and 5-1.

“The last time we fenced them I only had one bout, but they’re all different,” Ferretti said. “I watched my two other teammates [in epée] and I was able to learn by watching them. I thought I fenced pretty well today, but I’ll work on staying focused and cheering on the team for our next meet.”

Petrie defeated all three of her opponents in foil without allowing a single touch.

Centereach foilist Rebecca Koenig Vinicombe tries to fight off Ward Melville's Gabrielle Petrie in her 5-0 loss on Dec. 19. The Patriots won the meet 22-5. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach foilist Rebecca Koenig Vinicombe tries to fight off Ward Melville’s Gabrielle Petrie in her 5-0 loss on Dec. 19. The Patriots won the meet 22-5. Photo by Bill Landon

“We’ve fenced them before, but each time you go out on the strip you have to be aware [because] they can change, they might do something different, or do something unexpected,” Petrie said. “I was pleased with my performance, but there are always things you want to analyze. I always look at my technique to be sure I’m executing. Regardless of whether I’m winning or losing I just concentrate on being the best fencer I can be.”

Freshman Lauren Cappello was also perfect on the day, winning both of her sabre bouts, 5-3 and 5-0, as did classmate Olivia Calise, who claimed wins in both of her sabre bouts, 5-2 and 5-4.

Centereach sophomore épéist Abigail Cornelia said Ward Melville is a powerful team that presents a huge learning experience for the Cougars.

“This year we have a lot of new fencers, so it’s really good to expose them to this level of play,” she said. “I think we did well under the circumstances.“

Other undefeated Patriots on the strip were sophomore épéeist Julia Duffy who edged out both of her challengers, and freshman épéeist Catherine Cao, who won her single appearance on the strip.

Centereach head coach Mike Olsen said Ward Melville works hard, and knew that it was going to be a tough match.

“We look to keep up with them and try take away one thing from each bout that we fence,” he said. “We may not win, but I told the girls to it’s a learning experience every time you go up against them.”

Ward Melville will host Walt Whitman on Monday, Jan. 4, while Centereach hosts Commack on Monday, Dec. 21, at 4 p.m.