Fencing team gets better with unity

The No. 8 Owls have had a difficult road so far, but stand tall behind coach Nikki Franke.

It hasn’t been an easy year so far.

The fencing team has faced a tough schedule this year, as it has gone toe-to-toe with the best programs in the country.

In addition, the Owls look strong as they draw closer to the Regional and NCAA Championships. And with the NCAA polls currently slotting the Owls as the eighth-best team in the country, all coach Nikki Franke’s squad can think about is moving up.

“I would like to see us get ahead of Princeton [the No. 7 team] after we beat them twice,” senior captain Kristine Jones said.

The Owls have been successful this year due to their balanced attack with equal contributions from the sabre, foil and epee squads.

“On any given day, there is one squad that is going to pick up another squad,” Franke said. “If one squad is struggling against a particular school, then another squad picks it up.”

A recent example would be the match against Cornell during the Princeton Multi-Meet, where both the foil and epee squads lost their matchups by a score of 4-5, but sabre brought the heat sweeping Cornell 9-0 to give the Owls an overall victory of 17-10.

But victories like that might be lost on the Owls, as it is almost impossible for the team to win the NCAA Championship since Temple does not have a men’s fencing team to combine a total score with the women’s team.

“It is difficult for us to be NCAA Champions, but we still do well in the NCAAs,” Jones said.

The Owls have the opportunity to have individual fencers qualify for the NCAA Championship, though.

“We definitely have a chance to have several fencers qualify to be in the NCAA Championships,” Franke said. “Our goal is to get the maximum amount of fencers [six] to the regionals and then from the regionals, the NCAAs.”

Franke is looking to have an NCAA run similar to the one the team had last year.

Last season, the Owls had four fencers go all the way to the NCAA Championship, and two earned All-America honors. For the fencers themselves, while the sport is a one-on-one contest, there is an emphasis on team unity.

Kaitlyn Uckert Fencing

“We are always together and doing things as a unit,” senior Kaitlyn Uckert said. “We are always looking forward to the next challenge.”

In contrast, other teams seem to rely more on individual talent to win matches.

“That is the difference between us and teams like Penn State,” Jones said. “When you see them warm up, they do it individually.”

Speaking of Penn State, this year, the Owls had a chance to face the No. 1-ranked Nittany Lions. The Owls took a 21-6 defeat, and Franke had nothing but praise for the opponent.

“They were strong throughout all three of their squads,” Franke said. “We will see them again in the regionals, and we prepare for it.”

Franke stresses that the team needs to finish strong, stay motivated and keep up the good work.
“It has been a combination of good preparation, and the girls are really working together,” Franke said.
Despite all the pressure from constantly facing highly regarded teams, the team still tries to keep the atmosphere fun and lighthearted around each other.

“I am not gonna lie, we are maniacs,” senior captain Sabrina Shapiro said. “All of us are crazy.”

Brian Dzenis can be reached at brian.dzenis@temple.edu.

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