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Athlete of the Week is Ward Melville fencer Lauren Cappello

The senior who specializes in sabre capped a 23-0 season with two wins in the Long Island title meet this week and finished her four years 119-24.

Lauren Cappello of Ward Melville, left, shakes hands

Lauren Cappello of Ward Melville, left, shakes hands with Amber Patrick of Jericho after their sabre bout in the girls fencing Long Island Championship at Jericho High School on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2017. Cappello won all three of her bouts to lead the Patriots to a 14-7 win. Photo Credit: James Escher

Lauren Cappello lost 18 times during her freshman season, which coincided with an uncharacteristic finish by the Ward Melville girls fencing team.

Long Island champions 16 of the last 17 years after besting Great Neck South on Wednesday, 14-2, Cappello’s 2016 season was part of the only blip on the Patriots’ radar.

There haven’t been many bumps since. Cappello, a senior, capped a 23-0 campaign with two wins in sabre during Long Island title meet and finished her four years on varsity with a 119-24 record.

Yes; after an 18-loss first season, Cappello lost just six times since.

“I think that it was good, in a sense, because I lost so much,” said Cappello, who added the 2016 sabre group lost a few fencers early on, and that required her to take a larger role. “I think it gave me a lot of experience in terms of how to behave when it comes to losing.”

The transition to winning ways can be attributed to a variety of factors — like listening to the advice of her coaches more often, in Cappello’s opinion — but Ward Melville girls fencing coach Kyle Hempe said she simply committed herself to improving.

“She puts in the time,” Hempe said. “Year-round, it’s training with [Ward Melville boys fencing coach] Jeff Salmon and the other coaches at Mission Fencing Club. She really was just getting acclimated as a freshman.”

During the early bouts of her fencing career, Cappello said she’d let a deficit “destroy her.” Overcoming adversity was initially a struggle, but as she matured as a fencer, those problems became virtually nonexistent.

There wasn’t a better example of that growth than in Cappello’s second bout of the Long Island team championship. Great Neck South’s Mary Ye jumped out to a 2-0 lead — the same type of lead that would have derailed Cappello’s confidence a few years prior.

Cappello attributed the early hole to excitement and lunging too quickly. She buckled down and collected herself after a timeout and won the next five touches for a 5-2 victory.

“Sometimes she comes out a little too quick, and we just have to slow it down a little bit” Hempe said.

She had to remember her plan. In her opinion, having a solid plan of attack in sabre is more pivotal than in epee or foil because of the speed of a typical sabre bout.

“There’s a lot more pre-emptive planning when it comes to what you’re going to do,” she said. “Before you even start fencing, you need to have a really good idea of what you’re going to do.”

Cappello said she hopes to fence in college, and her top two choices are Brandeis and Vassar. After struggling through a rigorous freshman season, that dream might have seemed unattainable.

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