Andrea Haley’s friends were surprised to learn that Temple had a fencing team.
The Owls, who have been ranked in the Top 10 for the past seven years, said they understand the difficulty that comes with their sport’s popularity. There are 24 Division I fencing teams and Temple hosts one to two meets per season.
“We always get to championship,” Haley, a senior sabre, said. “We’ve won [The National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association] for  years in a row. We are a very strong program and it’s a shame that more people do not know about that at Temple.”
“I feel that we are one of Temple’s most successful [programs],” senior sabre Tasia Ford said. “But I also feel like we are one of the most under-acknowledged teams. Nobody hears about how successful we are. No one sees Temple fencing on the big screen.”
With their leadership and experience, 44th-year coach Nikki Franke and her staff are the team’s guiding force to its national success.
“Coach Franke is a very proud person,” Ford said. “She is proud of our team and she likes to share that with everybody else.”
“[The coaches] always expect us to come in and work our hardest … we are supposed to focus on fencing and nothing else should be disturbing us,” Haley said.
Assistant coach Anastasia Ferdman stressed focusing on the process, not the result.
“Whether we have success or failure, we are going to take one day at a time and try to work the best we can…the reason we got to the point we are is because of our strong work ethic,” Ferdman said.
But intensity isn’t the only thing emphasized at practice.
“They expect us to give our all,” Ford said. “But they expect us to enjoy being there because if you don’t enjoy being there, there is no point.”
Student-athletes said this balance is why this year’s team has been able to defeat top programs like No. 7 Northwestern, then-No. 8 University of Pennsylvania and then-No. 3 Notre Dame.
With a national ranking being achieved every year, the fencers said they are not bothered by the expectations.
“I wouldn’t say we feel pressure – we are really strong and experienced,” Ford said. “I think we always want to improve every year and we want to be more successful.”
“We want to be proud of what we’re doing right now because it has been left to us, and we need to go out there and do the best we can because everyone will remember what we do,” Haley said.
But with such a high ranking, the Owls now have a target on their backs.
“The teams below us are definitely gunning for us and we know that … we go out there and fight for every touch,” Haley said.
“We’ve beat schools ahead of us, but I think we can keep improving and they will give us the respect we deserve if we keep doing how we are now,” Haley added.
Michel Guise can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MikeG2511.