Fencing finishes its season in ninth place

The No. 9 Temple fencing team placed ninth at the NCAA Championships in Boston last week.

The No. 9 Temple fencing team placed ninth at the NCAA Championships in Boston last week.

The No. 9 Temple fencing team finished its season at the NCAA Championships this past weekend in Boston exactly where it ranks – ninth in the nation.

Courtesy Joseph V. Labolito Temple Athletics Senior Melissa Parker competes in the foil event at the NCAA Championships this past weekend in Boston.

The Owls had four participants compete in this year’s NCAA Championships. All of them finished in the Top 20.

Senior Kristin Howell (14-6 overall) completed Day 1 in eighth place with an 8-6 record in the epee. She placed 11th overall with 12 wins and was named Honorable Mention All-America for the third straight season. Classmate Melissa Parker (36-16 overall) placed 14th in the foil with nine wins.

Freshman Mikayla Varadi (30-11 overall) had a rough first outing in her NCAA Championship debut. She earned just two wins and was in last place at the end of the first day. She rebounded on Day 2 and earned five wins to finish the competition in 18th place in the foil.

Sophomore Kamali Thompson (31-12 overall) finished the first day of action with six wins, which ranked 16th. She claimed 14th place in the sabre with 10 wins overall.
“It’s a long, intensive two days of very tough competition,” coach Nikki Franke said in an e-mail interview. “Some of the girls got off to a slow start but were able to pick it up as the competition continued. Everyone fenced hard until the very end.”

“I was pleased with this result because the only teams that finished ahead of us were those with five or six qualifiers,” she added.

Harvard’s Caroline Vloka won the sabre title, while Columbia/Barnard’s Nicole Ross won foil, and Margherita Guzzi of Penn State won epee.

Saint John’s came out of the two-day event with the team title. The Red Storm were followed in the Top 3 by Notre Dame and Penn State. An institution’s finish in the championships is based on the number of points each fencer earns. Teams are awarded one point for each of their student-athletes’ victories.

Overall, Franke said she was pleased with her fencers’ performances this season. Temple won its 14th straight NIWFA Team Championship by sweeping all three weapons titles and two of the individual titles. Parker became the first Owl to win back-to-back NIWFA Championships in foil since Jeanne Brown did so in 2003 and 2004. Thompson also won her second consecutive NIWFA Championship. Parker, Thompson and senior Christie Griffith were each named to the All-NIWFA Team.

“We won the NIWFA Championship again this year and had eight girls make the finals of the NCAA Regional Championship, which was fantastic,” Franke said.

“It was a somewhat unusual season for us with the cancellation of several meets that we had depended on due to weather and other problems,” Franke added. “In spite of this, our schedule had us competing against many of the top teams in the nation, and we held our own.”

Part of the fencing program’s success can be attributed to the quality of the student-athletes Franke has brought into the program throughout the years. She said she believes her team is committed to winning both athletically and academically and has enjoyed working with ladies who are dedicated to the university.

“We are very close as a team and work together very well,” Franke said. “Believing in and supporting your teammates is key to our success. Coach [Bradley] Baker and I love to coach and work with these young ladies who are so committed.”

The end of the season is also the end of the road for seniors Howell, Parker and Griffith. The three seniors have continued the program’s long success of winning NIWFA Championships and strong performances at the NCAA Championships.

“The seniors will truly be missed next year,” Franke said. “They were much of the leadership for the team and set the tone of what the girls had to do if they wanted to be successful. They each had their own style, which reflected their personalities, and each was effective in their own way.”

With their graduations, Franke will look to Thompson and Varadi as the backbone of next year’s team. The Owls expect to return 11 fencers from this season and will welcome a few additions.

“We have a great deal of depth on the team, and our upperclassmen, hopefully, have learned a lot from our seniors about their responsibility to make sure the team continues in its winning tradition,” Franke said.

The Owls’ depth should reward Franke next season, as she looks to win a record 15th straight NIWFA Championship.

“A lot will be asked of [our team] next year, and they will have to rise to the occasion,” Franke said. “They will have big shoes to fill, and I hope are looking forward to the challenge.”

Joe Serpico can be reached at gserpico@temple.edu.

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