For the second time this week, a Patriots team completed a comeback to win a championships.
Ward Melville boys fencing has been its sports’ dominant team, just like its NFL counterparts in New England, but fell behind Garden City early Tuesday night at Half Hollow Hills East, and faced a pair of match points late.
A win in epee from Ben Rogak tied the match and set up Mike Jaklitsch, who won the final bout of the season to clinch a 14-13 win for Ward Melville, giving the Patriots their 10th consecutive Long Island championship. The win also upped their dual-meet winning streak to 158.
The Ward Melville girls team also won, defeating Great Neck South, 14-3, to win its 14th Long Island title in 15 years.
“I was probably the least nervous person in that room,” Jaklitsch said of his 5-0 title-winning bout, his third win of the evening. “I know what I can do and I know I can beat anyone that gets on the strip against me.”
His teammates agreed. “I was relaxed watching him,” Rogak said. “He’s such a talented fencer, I didn’t have a doubt in mind.”
“Once it came down to Mike, I knew we won,” said Jack Rohan, who came back from a 4-1 deficit in his final sabre bout that broke a tie at 10.
Ward Melville (17-0) lost its first four bouts of the match and trailed 5-4 at the end of the first round. Garden City (14-1) extended its lead to 7-4, before the Patriots finished the second round with a 6-1 run.
Donal Mahoney and Quentin Bucknor (who both went 3-0) answered with wins in sabre to tie the match, helping Garden City (14-1) take a 13-12 lead.
“They had a very strong sabre team, I think stronger than any Suffolk team we’ve faced,” Rohan said. “I’m glad our teammates picked us up.”
That included Rogak, who went 3-0 in epee, including a win in the matches penultimate bout.
“In those tough scenarios, you just have be calm, buckle down and hit your target,” Rogak said. “I was happy I did my job.”
“We always pick each other up, we always support each other,” Jaklitsch said. “I’m going to remember that about this team.”
In a battle of unbeaten teams on the girls strip, Ward Melville (17-0) jumped to a fast start and did not look back.
“Winning all three early sabre bouts got us going and I think that’s important,” said Lauren Cappello, who went 2-0 in sabre. “It keeps our hopes up and gives us a positive outlook.”
Ward Melville had won the first 13 Long Island championships, before Half Hollow Hills edged them in the regular season last year. “It’s good to be back,” said Lara Obedin (2-0 in foil).
“Being part of this team has been great,” said Arianna Ferretti, who won the match clincher in epee. “I’ll always take these memories with me.”