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Ward Melville reloads, hopes to start new streak in boys fencing

Ward Melville's Ben Rogak during the Brentwood Holiday

Ward Melville's Ben Rogak during the Brentwood Holiday Fencing Tournament on Dec. 16, 2017 at Brentwood. Credit: Richard T. Slattery

Jericho shook up the history books last season, defeating Ward Melville to win its first Long Island championship in school history and break the Patriots’ 172-match winning streak.

But this season, Ward Melville still is the team to beat.

Epeeist Ben Rogak looks to make his third All-Long Island team, and Will Lehr is primed for a breakout season on the epee strip after placing third at the Brentwood Holiday Tournament. Coach Jeff Salmon returns a sabre trio that earned a three-way tie at the individual county championships last season with Josh Yen, Leo Takemaru and Albert Tian. In foil, Chris Ancona, Mike Desonda and Regan St. Clair will seldom lose a match.

While the storyline for this upcoming season may center around the beginning of a new streak for a deep and experienced Ward Melville team, there certainly is no shortage of talent elsewhere in Suffolk.

Newfield returns Jake Hempe, the 2018 Suffolk Player of the Year who will look to cap a distinguished career with a stellar final season. Hempe has won the last two individual foil titles and will go for his second straight Brentwood Tournament title on Dec. 15. Domenic Bartolo, Mark Hofilena and Vincent Reyes also return for Newfield.

Half Hollow Hills sabrist Conor Travaglione is a favorite to win the Brentwood Tournament after placing third in 2017. Sayville has two rising fencers in Andrew Dyckman and Max Wagner, and Commack has a talented core of Sam Pak and Sam Morris.

There is no clear favorite in Nassau, although Jericho still is expected to contend. Despite losing most of its roster from last season, including Fencer of the Year Bennett Cohen, the Jayhawks return All Long-Island selection Jonathan Sheng, and senior Yiyu Liu was the county runner-up in the epee individual championships.

Garden City welcomes back Zach Ortiz, who was runner-up at both the county individual foil championship and Brentwood.  Great Neck South returns epeeists Kevin Fang, who placed third at both the Brentwood tournament and the county individual championships, and Edward Gau, who was 18-9 on the strip last season.

Fencers to watch

Kevin Feng, Great Neck South, Sr.: The epeeist went 21-4 and placed third at both the county championships and the 2017 Brentwood Holiday Tournament.

Jake Hempe, Newfield, Sr.: A two-time Suffolk player of the year, he is 77-2 in dual meets over the past two seasons.

Zach Ortiz, Garden City, Jr.: The foilist went 25-3 in dual meets and finished second at both the county individual championships and the Brentwood Holiday Tournament.

Ben Rogak, Ward Melville, Sr.:  A two-time All-Long Island selection, he went 28-2 en route to his second straight Suffolk epee championship.

Jonathan Sheng, Jericho, Sr.: An All-Long Island selection as junior, he went 22-2 in dual meets and won the county championship in sabre.

Conor Travaglione, Half Hollow Hills, Sr.: The sabrist finished third at the 2017 Brentwood Holiday Tournament.

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