Ward Melville's Kiki Liu, right, goes up against Great Neck South's...

Ward Melville's Kiki Liu, right, goes up against Great Neck South's Kira Nguyen in a foil match during the Long Island boys and girls fencing championships on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024 at Brentwood. Credit: George A Faella

Tip your head and tap your weapons. Great Neck South boys and girls teams are Long Island champions, the first time both teams have done so in the same season.

Great Neck South girls fencing defeated Ward Melville, 14-12, at Brentwood High School Wednesday evening in the Long Island Championship. Across Ross Gymnasium the boys team beat Newfield, 14-11, as the Rebels took its crown back after its 2021-22 title.

“They are so hard-working and dedicated,” girls coach Catie Sagevick said. “With those elements and with the connections they all made, it becomes a family. It becomes more than just win-loss. It becomes tradition.”

Great Neck South’s girls team fell behind 8-4 in the match, but that’s where the Rebels’ resiliency showed. The team responded with seven consecutive victories on the strip.

Sagevick made a crucial pre-planned substitution in the second round, something that paid off in a regular-season match against Syosset in December. Senior captain Kira Nguyen participated in foil rather than her normal epee, which led her to beat one of Ward Melville’s best fencers Kiki Liu, 5-3 before delivering the same score against Victoria Lachko.

“We have a strong epee squad,” Sagevick said. “And Kira said, ‘I want to do what’s best for the team, and I think I can help in foil.’”

It came down to the epee team to close out the win. With a final touch, sophomore Ashley Nguyen sent her team into a frenzy of cheers and embraces as the Rebels won after two second-place finishes to Commack over the last two seasons.

“I was just really excited,” Ashley Nguyen said. “With all the morale and people boosting me, it was really great.”

Just under 11 minutes earlier the boys team unleashed a similar reaction when Amir Karimov defeated Newfield’s Misha Radovic, 5-3, helping the Rebels claim a 4-3 advantage in epee.

Newfield fought hard to get back in the match — the Wolverines went 6-3 in the second round — but Great Neck South won four straight bouts to seal the win. The Rebels won eight of their nine foil bouts, helped by 3-0 days by senior Jun Ahn and junior Dylan Kim.

Kim said he didn’t fence as much as a freshman when the Rebels last won the championship, so being a main part of the team’s success meant even more to the junior.

“This year, being on the strip, it’s such an adrenaline rush,” Kim said.

There was no denying the satisfaction coach Josh Baravarian felt at returning atop Long Island after coming one game short in the 2022-23 Nassau championship.

“It feels right,” Baravarian said. “We put in so much time and so much work, and the kids are so dedicated. It’s just very rewarding to be here again and pull it out.”

“We actually just made history,” Kim said. “This is one for the books.”

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