Both Ward Melville fencing teams are headed back to the Long Island championship, even if they did it in different ways Thursday night.
Trailing 4-1 in the third foil match and with her team down by the same score, Ward Melville’s Sandie O’Brien was trying to stay in the moment and not think about what the bout meant for her team.
“I knew I had to just focus on each touch to really do my best,” O’Brien said. “It was stressful but it was also pretty motivating.”
O’Brien got the next four touches to earn a 5-4 victory and spark a run of eight consecutive Ward Melville wins that helped the Patriots defeat Commack, 14-8, in the Suffolk team final. The win clinched Ward Melville’s spot in the Long Island championship Tuesday at Jericho against the Nassau winner. The Nassau semifinals and finals are Saturday at Jericho.
“I was just very excited that I could help the team,” O’Brien said. “I felt like it definitely helped swing the match for us and it felt good to contribute.”
Julia Duffy, who went 28-0 at epee during regular-season dual meets and went 1-1 against Commack, hoped her team would have a better start but never wavered in her confidence. “We thought we would come out strong but we had some tough early match ups,” Duffy said. “We were just trying to make sure that we could pull through and have our team stay focused.”
The Patriots (14-0) are looking to repeat as Long Island champions after winning 13 consecutive titles before 2016.
“To be fencing for Ward Melville really makes me feel great,” Duffy said. “Our legacy has been built up for many years. It’s indescribable what it means to win another Long Island championship.”
The boys team, which entered the day with a 171 match win streak, went ahead 13-2 before finally defeating Commack, 14-4, to clinch its berth in the Long Island final.
“We are really just trying to win the next bout,” Ben Rogak, who went 2-0 at epee and won the clinching bout, said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the first bout or the last one, you just have to win.”
The final bout of the match had extra meaning for Rogak. He defeated Chris Collado, who is a club training partner and another top contender, 5-3, in epee.
“It’s always a great opportunity when you’re going up against another top fencer,” Rogak said “I was thankful that it came down to us so people could see how good we really are and what fencing is all about.”
And once again Ward Melville (14-0) showed that it is the class of Suffolk fencing.
“It’s very exciting to be a part of a team that has the ability to keep the tradition going,” Rogak said. “I’m thankful to be a part of it.”