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Michael Jaklitsch leads Ward Melville to crown

Half Hollow Hills Edward Bae celebrates his victory

Half Hollow Hills Edward Bae celebrates his victory over Ward Melville's Michael Jaklitsch to win the team title during the Suffolk High School Fencing Team and Individual Championships on Saturday Feb 6 2016, at Ward Melville High School. Credit: Bob Sorensen

There was a sense of déjà vu at the Suffolk County Fencing Tournament. Going into the ninth round, Half Hollow Hills boys were in second place and Ward Melville was in first. The score was 50-48.

With the Patriots ahead by a mere two points, they needed to either win the match or stop Hills from scoring more than five points.

The latter worked. Ward Melville held Hills to five points in their head-to-head match, beating the returning county champs and bringing the championship back home, with an overall score of 56-55.

“I knew it was going to be tough,” said Coach Jeff Salmon. “Last year was the exact same thing . . . we didn’t win the head-to-head. [This time] we fell apart here and there and Hills didn’t, putting themselves in that great position. But we were able to prevail by one point.”

The Patriots maintained the lead throughout the tournament but Hills was always a step behind them.

Last season, Ward Melville was the returning champs, but Hills dethroned them for the first time since 2007, beating them in the head-to-head the same way, 5-4, and having a small difference in the overall score.

“It’s an amazing win. We lost last year and it feels great to come back and win,” said Michael Jaklitsch who went 7-1 in epee. “We knew we had to stay strong. Any little mistake could cost us the meet.”

All errors are costly in a tournament based on points. Each bout matters.

“It’s a lot of pressure. Every bout you have to show up and fence your best,” said Jack Rohan, who went 8-0 in sabre. “When it came down to epee, I was relaxed and knew my teammates would win.”

With the crown returning to Ward Melville, the boys get to say they are on top once again, continuing the Patriots fencing legacy.

“Our win is a way of saying we’re still relevant and still a great team,” said freshman Christopher Ancona, who went 2-1 in foil. “It’s a like a sense of returning something that was ours, that was lost and returning it back to where it has been for a long time. We redeemed ourselves from last year.”

That same feeling of déjà vu was happening on the girl’s side.

Commack girls, the two-time returning champs, were in second place and Ward Melville was in first, 50-48.

Ward Melville had to mirror their male teammates. Either beat Commack or hold them to five points.

Instead the girls chose the former, beating Commack, 5-4, and earning an overall score of 55-52.

“Commack has been pushing us and they’ve been our top competitors,” said Lara Obedin, who went 7-1 in foil. “It feels great to be able to come back and beat them and become county champs again.”

Like their brothers, the Patriots were in the lead for the majority of the tournament, with Commack at their heels.

“I’ve been on the team since 7th grade and we always won counties,” said Arianna Ferretti, who went 7-1 in epee. “The past two years we’ve had great seasons and we’d come to counties and it would be right there but we’d lose. As a senior, it’s great to get it back.”

Commack set the fencing world in frenzy when they defeated Ward Melville in 2015, the first time the Patriots lost since 2002. Now for both the boys and girls, the trophy’s are in a familiar place.

“Ward Melville has such a large dynasty,” said Lauren Cappello, who went 6-2 in sabre. “It’s good to bring that back and continue that in the future.”

The Individual Suffolk County Tournaments were also held yesterday. Obedin, the returning champ, won again after a tie break between Whitman’s Kayla Soulias, in foil. Ferretti also placed first in epee. Cappello placed third in sabre.

Rohan placed third in sabre. Ancona placed third in foil. Ben Rogak for Ward Melville placed first in epee and Jaklitsch placed second.

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