For Maryanne and Melissa Forsythe, fencing is in their blood. One of three seniors on the fencing team, Maryanne and her sister Melissa, a freshman, are competing on the same team, again.
But this time, they’re in college and there’s much more at stake, especially at last weekend’s Temple Invitational at McGonigle Hall.
The sisters got into the sport when their oldest sister, Sara, started fencing in high school. In Sara’s senior season at Temple, the captain for the Owls finished 17th in Epee at the 2004 National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships. Sara was named Temple’s female student-athlete of the year in 2004, and she now serves as a volunteer coach at Duke.
After watching Sara competitively fence at Temple, both Maryanne and Melissa knew they wanted to showcase their athleticism on the strip, as well. Their reasons for joining, however, were quite different.
“Our neighbor across the street got Sara into [fencing],” Maryanne said, “and [then] I did it because Sara did it.”
Fencing wasn’t always the sport of choice for the Forsythes, who played soccer, basketball and softball in their youth. But Maryanne said she thought it was time for a change.
Melissa began fencing much earlier than her older sister Maryanne did. In sixth grade, Melissa started fencing competitively. She got involved by participating in as many meets and events as she could.
Melissa decided that she wanted to continue through high school, and even at the collegiate level. Like Sara, Melissa decided she would compete in the Epee.
Following behind her two older sisters, Melissa was motivated to outperform Sara, who was often recognized and awarded during her time at Temple.
“Part of me wants to beat my older sister. I wasn’t going to go after Maryanne since we’re different weapons, so there was Sara,” Melissa said. “So if Sara took second in something, I want to go and take first.”
Maryanne gets her motivation to fence in ways completely different from Melissa. In high school, Maryanne decided to compete in Foil so she could avoid comparisons between she and Sara.
“Sara was Epee. I was not,” Maryanne said. “That was my way of being able to participate, but not on the same level.”
Both sisters agreed that it was a tough choice to come to Temple, since their older sibling had already been on the team.
“Coming in as a freshman and your sister’s been to the NCAAs twice, it’s very intimidating,” Maryanne said.
Melissa felt the same way.
“Everyone knew Sara in high school and everyone knew Maryanne because her team always did well,” Melissa said. “That makes it really tough.”
Maryanne, Melissa and their since-graduated sister Sara were standout fencers at Hackettstown (N.J.) High. Sara finished second and third in the state championships in 1999 and 2000, respectively. Maryanne was named Hackettstown’s most valuable player during her senior year, when she led her team to a state championship in Foil in 2002. Melissa was ranked New Jersey’s No. 1 Epee fencer during the 2004-05 season.
Maryanne and Melissa’s parents, Annette and Mark Forsythe, are very dedicated to their daughters’ sport.
“I finally decided to take lessons so I could have a clue,” their mother said. “I understand it, and it’s been really exciting to watch now.”
Their father is used to the grueling athletic schedule that his children face, but said it’s a great experience for them.
“I’ve coached them in soccer, softball and basketball since they were six years old,” Mark said. “I’ve been doing that for about 16 years. When they all chose Temple, I was very happy [for them].”
The Owls went undefeated Sunday at the seven-team Temple Invitational. They beat Fairleigh Dickinson by a score of 20-7, Stevens, 23-4, Hunter, 25-2, and Drew, 20-7, while shutting out the New Jersey Institute of Technology and James Madison by scores of 27-0.
Four fencers finished the day with unbeaten records. Freshmen Melissa Forsythe and Sabrina Shapiro went 10-0 and 11-0, respectively. Sophomore Sabre fencer Kristine Jones was 14-0, and senior Foilist Jenna Remmert finished at 15-0 to lead the Owls to a win in their home meet.
Each of Temple’s individual fencers had a winning record for the meet.
Sophomore fencers Marla Nacey (10-1), Brianna Ferrara (6-3) and Ninah Bell (4-1), along with freshman Kaitlyn Uckert (4-1) led the Epee squad.
Foilists Maryanne Forsythe and freshman Nina Gernes ended the day 9-2 and 10-1, respectively. Senior Sabre fencer Keri Ecker finished 11-3, while her freshman teammate Ashlee Phillips ended at 8-6.
Next up for the Owls is a trip to Durham, N.C., for the six-team Duke Multi-Meet on Saturday.
Melissa DiPento can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.