Few teams on Long Island in any sport can boast a run as dominant as Ward Melville boys' and girls' fencing.
The boys squad has claimed the last six Long Island championships and 13 total Suffolk titles, and comes into this season on a 94-match winning streak.
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Given all this success, Patriots coach Jeff Salmon, who has been with Ward Melville since the program's inception as a club team in 1995, says staving off complacency is a real challenge. The key to doing this, he says, is setting his fencers' "goals higher than what's going on in the county, so they're always looking to take the next step."
Junior Mike Antipas is one of the standout returning starters for Salmon's team, and is coming off a 34-0 season last year in foil. Antipas is ranked in the top 50 nationally among foil fencers under 20-years-old by the United States Fencing Association.
Senior Devin Reina joins Antipas in foil to form one of the most formidable duos in the discipline on the Island.
Ward Melville sabre is led by seniors Emmanuel Thomas and Robert Kent, and senior Tyler LaTourette leads a Patriots epee discipline that Salmon describes as "deep and solid."
The Patriots' success makes them a target for the rest of Suffolk, including Brentwood, where coach Mike Corona says his "goal is to be the team that knocks [Ward Melville] off."
Corona leads an experienced squad led by seniors Braulio Trejo and Joe Bordonaro in sabre, Julian Priceman and Sean Rivera in foil, and Chris Cruz in epee.
Commack is another strong team and will feature one of the Island's best in sabre. The team is led by defending county champion Brian Huang and senior David Austin, who beat Huang in this season's Brentwood Invitational sabre final.
Elsewhere, though Whitman coach Kathleen Kolakowski says her team is "rebuilding," she still has a pair of senior Brentwood medalists in foil Mike Ruotolo and sabre Ben Sakarin.
Huntington is headlined by a deep and experienced fencers in epee, led by seniors James Montefusco, Benjamin Nikodem and Donovan Richardson.
In Nassau, Great Neck South is the defending county champion, and has a pair of gold medalists from this season's Brentwood Invitational. Skyler Chin won the epee event and Kody Horiuchi took first in foil. Chin joins Alex Hall and Brentwood semifinalist Kevin Ko to form an elite epee team, and semifinalist Andy Shu will join Horiuchi in foil.
Great Neck South knocked off Oyster Bay in last year's county final, denying the Baymen a third-consecutive Nassau title.
This season, Oyster Bay returns seniors Matt Mahoski and Anant Mehrotra in sabre, Berkeley Golon in foil and Jason Halpern in epee. The epee team will also feature junior Andreas Tsoumpariotis, who won silver at this year's Brentwood Invitational.