Victoria Suber took her attention off the foil and sabre strip for a brief second and glanced at the epee strip. She noticed senior epee Alexandra Keft lying on the ground with her leg elevated getting her ankle taped by her trainer.
Suber didn’t know what happened, but shortly after refocusing on the foil strip, the senior sabre heard applause from her teammates and the Senior Day crowd at McGonigle Hall.
Keft rolled her ankle with the score tied at 13 against Princeton University, ranked No. 1 in the CollegeFencing360.com Women’s Coaches Poll. On her way back to the strip, she focused on just getting one more point, and did so to knock off Princeton 14-13 at the Temple Invitational on Feb. 26.
“I try not to think about winning the match,” Keft said. “Instead, I just focus on getting that one touch and that just brings me down from this level of anxiety to calm and focused and to just get the job done.”
Keft finished with a team best 8-1 record at the Temple Invitational, where Temple defeated No. 4 Penn 15-12. The Owls went 2-1 against ranked opponents as they fell 16-11 to Penn State.
The Owls finished their dual meets 34-9 — the most wins in program history. They broke the 28-8 record set in the 2013-14 season. Keft, Suber and senior foil Kristen Kemnitzer were freshmen that season.
Keft said breaking the program’s record for wins wasn’t one of the goals the Owls set at the beginning of the season. But Keft and the rest of the Owls realized that it was achievable after they went 11-1 at the Northwestern Duals in February to improve to 25-8.
“We didn’t really think about it too much going forward, but we knew that it was something that could happen,” Keft said. “So, we just did what we had to do and fence like we always do and it came into fruition.”
The trio of Owls entered this season as squad leaders of their respective weapons. Kemnitzer is the foil leader, Suber is the sabre leader and Keft is the epee leader.
Temple lost a half-dozen seniors last season, which left a void.
Suber, Kemnitzer and Keft met for squad meetings to discuss what skills they needed to better on a weekly basis after practice in coach Nikki Franke’s office in Pearson Hall. Suber said it became easier as the season went on to talk to her younger teammates and hold them accountable.
But the group of seniors knew what they wanted to do as squad leaders. They wanted to emulate traits that former squad leaders Demi Antipas and Fatima Largaespada brought to practice last season, like open communication and team friendships.
“Having those connections and those friendships and that stability outside, it makes it easier to come to practice and give it 100 percent,” Kemnitzer said.
Suber, a Lexington, Massachusetts native, said she wasn’t even sure if she was going to go to Temple. She was hoping to enroll at Penn, but she also applied to Stanford University, the University of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
After two visits to Temple, Suber wasn’t just sold on the fencing program, but also on Philadelphia. She said the city felt like a natural fit.
“This senior class is so committed to this team and they so easily put the team in front of themselves, they are so unselfish, and that’s one of the characteristics of this group,” Franke said. “They care about the team, they care about each other and they are just committed to the team’s success in addition to their individual success. And that is very special, not everybody is like that.”
Tom Ignudo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Ignudo5.