The Commack boys fencing team may not sport the veteran depth that it did last season, but the Cougars are confident that this year’s younger core will soon become a new force to be reckoned with.
"First and foremost, we are thankful for the opportunity to be here, fencing, during this difficult time for all," Commack coach Paul Slackman said following the Cougars’ 16-11 Suffolk I home victory over Huntington on Tuesday night. "This is a huge win for us because we’re such a young team. Basically our entire starting lineup last season was made up of seniors."
Last season’s senior-laden Commack team went undefeated throughout the season until falling to Ward Melville in the county championship.
Leading the way for Commack on Tuesday were juniors Jason Duffe (foil) and Robert Barnes (sabre), along with sophomore Ethan Gullo (sabre), who all went 3-0 as the Cougars improved to 2-2 on the season.
"For me it was about extending as far as I could to make them afraid of how long I truly can be," Barnes said. "Kind of like a snake. I kind of coiled up at some points and just extended as far as I possibly could to get a touch. Or I would just manage to get a lucky touch while dodging backward."
"Our sabres have been outstanding," Slackman said. "Specifically Barnes and Gullo. Their explosiveness has really been great. They were a little bit timid in the past but this year they’ve grown by leaps and bounds and are scoring at a breakneck place . . . As far as Jason Duffe, he’s the leader of our foil and has been through it all. He’s such a great leader on the team."
Duffe said it’s a challenge he embraced entering the season.
"No matter what it’s based on I have to go out there, do my thing and lead this group," Duffe said.
"This group has come a long way," Slackman said. "Even since Day One this year. To get a win like this against a prominent team like Huntington is a big win for us. And we can build upon this and make this a special season. Our future is really bright with this group."
Duffe is just as excited for Commack’s future with its young core.
"Our younger roster is just setting us up for years to come," Duffe said. "Eventually the few seniors that we have will graduate and with all the younger fencers aligned, the whole team will be on top in a few years."