Ward Melville girls fencing reloads as it goes for 12th title in a row
For an ordinary program, the loss of the most successful coach in school history, the sport's reigning player of the year, and another All-Long Island performer would surely signal a "rebuilding year."
Ward Melville girls' fencing is no ordinary program.
The Patriots girls fencing team, which has won 11 consecutive Long Island championships and comes into the season on a 174-match winning streak, does not rebuild. It simply reloads.
Though 2013 Long Island girls fencer of the year Alexa Antipas and All-Long Island fencer Alexa Rohan have taken their sabres to college, Ward Melville will still be one of the Island's strongest in sabre.
The team features three fencers who are nationally ranked by the United States Fencing Association in Penn State-bound senior Kathryn Charpin and juniors Ilana Solomon and Carly Weber-Levine.
Defending county foil champion Angela Zhang and Brentwood Invitational epee runner-up Melanie Holl lead Ward Melville's other squads.
In building the second longest winning streak in Long Island sports history, Ward Melville has shown it can handle change. Replacing its coach though, will be a new challenge.
Coach Jennie Salmon, who led the Patriots during their dominant run, has stepped down to focus on her work at the Mission Fencing Center, a training facility in Rocky Point.
Aziza Hassan is tasked with replacing Salmon, and though Hassan said she is "excited" about the opportunity, she admitted she also feels pressure to "keep the kids on their winning streak."
As for Ward Melville's competition, Commack is one of the front-runners, thanks to an epee unit coach Robert Raeihle says is "the best Commack has seen in 30 years." The team features defending county champion Chantel Yang and Brentwood Invitational semifinalist Sam Galina, as well as Erin O'Neil and Samantha Abbott.
Whitman is strong in epee as well, headlined by junior Alexandria Alpy, who has won gold at the last two Brentwood Invitationals.
Brentwood tournament gold medalist Amanda Lewis leads Half Hollow Hills in foil and fellow gold medal winner Stefany Henriquez will anchor Brentwood in sabre.
Other strong units in Suffolk include Huntington in foil, led by Sibilla Maiarelli and Brianna Kirkland, and Newfield in sabre, featuring Shannon Cox, Amy Masciale, Maylene Navara and Ashley Bartnik.
Garden City will be looking to defend its county title in Nassau, and will be led by 2012 county sabre champion Caitlin Gallant.
The Trojans will be pushed by Oyster Bay, which returns a pair of county champions. Senior Laura Broffman won the county sabre championship in 2013, and Grey Warwick-Clark is Nassau's defending epee champion.