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Lauren Cappello's two wins help Ward Melville girls grab LI championship

Caps undefeated season with two victories in sabre.

Ward Melville's Lauren Cappello, left, scores a point

Ward Melville's Lauren Cappello, left, scores a point in her sabre match against Great Neck South's Connie Yoo. Cappello won, 5-1. Photo Credit: George A. Faella

Sometimes, Lauren Cappello needs to audibly tell herself to relax on the strip.

Facing a deficit in her second bout, the Ward Melville girls fencer did just that.

Cappello put a bow on her undefeated season in Wednesday’s night’s 14-2 win over Great Neck South in the Long Island fencing championship at Whitman, earning wins of 5-1 and 5-2 in sabre.

The Patriots have won 16 of 17 Long Island titles, the lone blemish coming in 2016 when Half Hollow Hills won the crown. Ward Melville (13-0) has also won 52 consecutive matches.

Cappello coasted through her first bout but went down 2-0 against Mary Ye in her second bout. That’s when Cappello collected herself, scoring the next five touches and moving to 23-0 this season.

“Honestly, I was just rushing because it’s exciting and because there’s that large gap between when you fence,” said Cappello, who finished her four years with a 119-24 record after an 18-loss freshman campaign. “I just got overexcited and rushed into her. I calmed myself down and reminded myself to chill out.”

Late drama was provided by Ivanna Zavala-Arbelaez and Sandie O’Brien as Ward Melville closed in on the title.

Zavala-Arbelaez led 3-2 in foil against Ann Yoo, but Yoo tied the score at 3 to raucous applause from the bench of Great Neck South (16-1). With a flurry of coordinated lunges, Zavala-Arbelaez earned the final two touches for a 5-3 win and a 12-1 Ward Melville lead.

Two bouts later, O’Brien trailed 2-1 to Sabrina Dao in foil before recording the tying touch with time winding down. She scored the winning touch with 11 seconds left in the overtime period for a 13-2 Patriots lead.

Senior Catherine Cao earned the match-clinching point with a 5-2 win in epee. Dianna Nielsen and Olivia Calise both went 2-0 in sabre, and Brooke Herbert and Olivia Becchina won their lone epee bouts.

“Especially for me, it’s just a really good feeling,” Cao said. “It’s a feeling of, I finished it. I started on this team in eighth grade and because of this team, I started fencing competitively. Everything that I’ve become is through school fencing.”

Great Neck South freshman Mandy Li earned the Rebels’ two points, capping a remarkable first year on varsity. The foil specialist went 39-0, winning the Brentwood holiday tournament and a Nassau individual championship.

But her efforts were not enough to stave off another chapter in the storybook dynasty Ward Melville has penned for nearly the last two decades.

“I think they’re confident and happy in the mark and the legacy that they’ve left,” Ward Melville coach Kyle Hempe said of Cappello and Cao. “The next round of fencers coming up behind them, they played a huge part in training them and getting them ready.”

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