Fencers bond in early meets

Young fencers adjust to college culture quickly.

The women’s fencing team has participated in two competitions so far this season, but the team chemistry has already been brewed to the optimal temperature.

“We’re always joking and laughing,” junior foil fencer Epiphany Georges said. “[The chemistry] is actually really good, the best since I’ve been here. Everybody’s getting along, everyone works well together, and that just works out for the best.”

“Immediately, everyone just clicked,” senior epee fencer Jill Bratton said. “Everyone gets along, everyone is accountable for everyone. It’s definitely a good team, and different from every other year.”

The Owls hosted their first tournament of the year at McGonigle Hall on Oct. 27 and later competed at the Garret Open at Penn State on Nov. 3. The team has collectively earned four medals this season, all at the Temple Open.

The team had 11 semifinalists and eight finalists at the Temple Open. At the Garret Open, the Owls had eight semifinalists and two finalists. The semifinals consist of the Top 16 fencers within each category – epee, foil and sabre. The finals include the Top 8.

“It’s been a very good start, and we have had a lot of good results,” coach Nikki Franke said. “So we’re pretty pleased. We still have a lot of things to work on.”

Georges, a foil fencer, has had the best results of the team so far. She grabbed a silver medal at the Temple Open, and just missed the stand at the Garret Open, finishing fourth. Georges, however, maintains an advocate for improvement.

“I’m happy with my results, but I feel like I could have done better,” Georges said. “I feel that I’m just as good a fencer as the finalists at both tournaments. I should be up there with them.”

Franke singled out sophomore sabre fencer Tiki Kastor, the gold medalist in sabre at the Temple Open, as a reliable competitor.

“[Kastor], just like [Georges], gives us the kind of consistency that is a good way to start the season,” Franke said. “She did very well.”

Bratton finished 13th in the epee competition at Penn State. She is the captain, as well as one of two seniors on the team, along with foil fencer Mikayla Varadi. Bratton takes it upon herself to set a good example for the underclassmen, she said.

“This weekend, I wasn’t having as good of a day in the first round,” Bratton said. “I just snapped out of that really fast and made sure that my mood wasn’t really rubbing off on them. They understood that the competitions so far haven’t counted for anything. It’s really just to get us back into the competitive mood.”

Both Bratton and Georges are impressed with the new freshman class.

“I think they’re a really strong group and that they’re really a force to be reckoned with,” Bratton said. “They’re definitely giving all the upperclassmen a run for their money. I’m pretty excited to see how they all compete this year.”

“I’m actually really impressed with them,” Georges said. “They’re really hard workers, they always give a hundred percent in practice, and they’re all very skilled. I’m really happy and looking forward to our season with them.”

The team practices four days a week, for three hours a day. Franke said the coaches will now be able to work with the girls one-on-one.

“All of the coaches now have had a chance to see the girls in two different tournaments.” Franke said. “We now have specific ideas of things that we want to work on individually with them.”

Temple ended last season ranked ninth in the nation. Bratton said she hopes to be ranked slightly higher than that this year.

“If we could finish the season ranked seventh, I’d be pretty happy,” Bratton said. “I’d also like it if we had six people qualify for championships this year. For myself, Top 8 for championships.”

However, Franke provided some perspective.

“But we still have a way to go,” Franke said. “We’re pretty early in the season.”

Temple’s next competition is at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on Dec. 1. It will be the first dual meet of the season.

Evan Cross can be reached at evan.cross@temple.edu or on Twitter @EvanCross.

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