Great Neck South’s chances at defending its Nassau girls fencing title for a sixth consecutive season seemed slim, as it trailed by two late in the match.
But the best teams can finish strong. And not many schools have a better girls epee team to end a match than the Rebels.
The trio of Michelle Wu, Avery Ko and Justina Hom went a perfect 9-0 as Hom won her final bout to claim another Nassau title for Great Neck South in its 14-13 victory over Syosset at Great Neck North High School on Friday night.
“Knowing that it was coming down to me, that was nerve-wracking to say the least,” Hom laughed. “But I was surprisingly calm . . . I’m really glad I was able to do that.”
Neither team took more than a three-point lead until the third cycle. That’s when Great Neck grabbed a 11-8 lead. Syosset responded by winning five consecutive bouts between its sabreists and foilists to take a 13-11 lead.
But Great Neck had its ace in the hole with its epee team. Coach Catie Sagevick credited the program’s championship-mindset in overcoming Syosset’s surge.
“We work on building our mental fortitude,” Sagevick said. “Going in knowing that you’re prepared for anything sets them up for a higher rate of success.
This all came without one of the epee team’s best fencers, captain Kira Nguyen, who was unavailable.
“It shows the strength of our program in epee,” Sagevick said, “and it’s only going to keep going.”
A wild finish for Great Neck South seemed to be the theme of the night as the boys also earned a 14-13 win over Syosset. A thrilling final bout between Syosset’s Taranjot Bambara and Great Neck South’s Benson Chou was tied 3-3 as time expired, leading to one final minute of fencing.
In extra time, Chou made his final touch and the Rebels stormed the strip just like they did in a similar 14-13 Nassau title win two years ago.
“It was chaotic,” the sophomore said. “I enjoyed their support, and I felt that they really cared about me.”
The Rebels epee team enjoyed a strong finals, securing six of Great Neck South’s 14 points. Still, just as it was with the girls teams, Syosset and Great Neck battled until the end.
Great Neck South won five foil bouts to Syosset’s four, which proved to be the difference in the end.
“We said if we went 5-4 in foil, we knew we could take it,” Great Neck South boys coach Josh Baravarian said. “The boys just went out there and worked and worked and worked, and just never relented.”
Jun Ahn and Dylan Kim won two bouts each, with Justin Jia adding one more.
The Great Neck South girls team will face Ward Melville and the boys will face Newfield in the Long Island Championship at Brentwood High School on Tuesday at 6 p.m.