After their 2-3 performance at the Philadelphia Invitational on Jan. 21, the Owls felt like they were in a mental fog they couldn’t break.
Senior foil squad leader Kristen Kemnitzer and her fellow squad leaders, senior epee Alexandra Keft and senior sabre Victoria Suber, met with their coaches following the event. The coaches told them to write down what they thought the team needed to work on in practice.
Leading up to the Northwestern Duals on Feb. 4 and 5, the squad leaders hung up their notes on the walls, so they could refer back to them during practice.
The Owls responded to their performance at the Philadelphia Invitational by going 11-1 at the Northwestern Duals — their winningest weekend of the season.
Temple continued its dominance on Saturday with a 5-0 performance at the Fairleigh Dickinson University Invitational. The Owls have set a program record with 30 wins in a season, beating the previous record, set in 2013-14, by two wins. The Owls (30-8) are No. 7 in the CollegeFencing360.com Women’s Coaches Poll.
“We had to change our mental game a lot,” Kemnitzer said. “We had to learn how to adapt to our opponents and capitalize on our own strengths. So we spent a lot of the time in practice finding out goals of what we wanted to accomplish that day and working entire practices on those things.”
The Owls went 5-1 on the first day of the Northwestern Duals, including a 21-6 win against then-ranked No. 4 Ohio State University. Temple could not win both of its matches against ranked teams, as it lost 15-12 to No. 3 University of Notre Dame. Temple swept its opponents on day two, including three wins with a victory margin of 21 or better.
It marked the first time since 2003 the Owls left the Northwestern Duals with one loss.
Since the New Year, the Owls are 2-4 against ranked opponents. Temple hasn’t been beaten by more than five in those contests.
“I think that they are more determined,” coach Nikki Franke said. “They know that these are very strong teams and they have to be able to win some of those matches. We lost some very close 14-13 matches, and we have to turn that around. And they understand that.”
Temple’s freshmen have been a tremendous help to its success so far this season.
Freshman sabre Malia Hee finished a team-best 20-3, at the Northwestern Duals, while freshman sabre Kerry Plunkett finished 16-5.
Hee and Plunkett also had top performances for the Owls at the Philadelphia Invitational, and freshman foil Kennedy Lovelace finished with a 10-5 record at the event. The three freshmen combined to go 25-4 on Saturday.
“On the sabre squad, Malia Hee and Kerry Plunkett are definitely two people who have really shown a lot of talent and have taken on big schools and have been put in to start at big schools, and they have not shown an ounce of fear,” sophomore epee Quinn Duwelius said. “They just do their jobs.”
Next on the schedule for the Owls are the Junior Olympics in Kansas City, Missouri from Friday to Monday.
Sophomore epee Fiona Fong, freshman epee Camille Simmons, sophomore epee Ally Micek and Lovelace will fence for Temple.
“We’re going to have a tough week of practice,” Franke said.
“We still need to work on our footwork, we need to work on our change of direction and explosiveness,” she added. “So those are some of the things [we need to work on], and our tactical situations.”
Tom Ignudo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Ignudo5.