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Garden City girls fencing looks to defend county title in 2014

Caitlin Gallant of Garden City, left, battles Oyster

Caitlin Gallant of Garden City, left, battles Oyster Bay's Laura Broffman in the 2013 girls' sabre semifinals. (Feb. 2, 2013) (Credit: James Escher)

Garden City girls fencing has a little bit of everything, from a former county champion to a sophomore duo that evokes memories of Mariano Rivera and John Wetteland.

The defending Nassau champions are led by senior Caitlin Gallant, who won the county individual sabre championship during the 2011-12 season. Gallant, a four-year starter, also made the county semifinals last season.

Gallant got this season started with a second-place finish at the Jeff Wolfe Holiday Fencing Tournament at Brentwood.

“Caitlin is a wonderful captain [and] is someone the other members of the team look to for guidance,” coach Michael Freidman says. “She is a steady winner for us who we count on [in] tight meets… and is someone I have relied on since she was in ninth grade.”

Senior Kathleen DeMaria joins Gallant on sabre to form one of the county’s stronger weapon units.

Michaela Smith leads Garden City’s epee team, and the senior finished 22nd at the Brentwood tournament this year.

Sophomore Dessie DiMino, who has an apparent flair for the dramatic, will also fence on the epee team. Kreidman calls DiMino his “closer,” and her teammates have nicknamed her “clutch” for good reason, as she closed out three 14-13 matches last season.

If DiMino is Kreidman’s closer, then Bridget Strysko is his “set-up woman.” Strysko, Kreidman says, would often fence in the penultimate bout before DiMino would be called upon to finish.

Though there is no fencing equivalent to baseball’s save, DiMino and Strykso’s ability to keep cool under pressure has been key for Garden City.

Freidman says it is very important to have “two fencers who can handle [pressure] and have proven to themselves and their teammates that they can handle it.”

In addition to doing a solid imitation of a baseball bullpen, DiMino and Strysko have had success as individual fencers, as both reached the Round of 16 at this year’s Brentwood Invitational.

Fellow sophomore Kaitlyn Focella, who got experience fencing for an injured Smith last season, adds depth to the epee team.

Returning starters Kathryn Tomasi and Emily Sallon lead Garden City’s foil team.

Senior trio leads balanced Garden City boys team

The Garden City boys will be looking to challenge the likes of Oyster Bay and Great Neck South in Nassau, and will be counting on three seniors to do so.

Justin Dong and Mike Vinci lead the sabre team, while Louis Stober III anchors the epee squad.

Boys coach Kevin Oliver says the trio is essential to his team’s success, praising the fencers who “lead by example on and off the strip.”

Oliver says Dong is “one of the top sabre fencers in the county and when he’s at his best, he might be [on] top.” Dong has won eight of his 11 bouts so far this season.

Vinci impressed at this year’s Brentwood Invitational, finishing in 10th with a +10 scoring differential. The senior went 3-1 in group play and 1-1 in the knockout stages, with both losses coming to nationally-rated Robert Kent of Ward Melville.

Stober III also had a good showing at Brentwood, reaching the epee quarterfinals and finishing in sixth place. Stober, who is nationally rated, went 7-1 overall in the competition, including a 5-0 finish in the group round, and finished with a +18 scoring margin.

Stober is joined on epee by nationally-rated junior James Ostrowski, who finished seventh at Brentwood.

Junior Spencer Cox is Garden City’s top foil fencer, and is 12-6 this season.

Tags: Garden City , fencing , Caitlin Gallant , Dessie DiMino , Bridget Strysko , Justin Dong , Mike Vinci , Louis Stober III

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