Finally at Nationals

Temple junior epee fencer Naomi Ross and freshman foil fencer Anna Novoseltseva concluded their first NCAA championship appearances on March 25.

Naomi Ross, a junior epee fencer, competes at the NCAA championships on March 25. | ANDREW KIM / COURTESY

Head coach Nikke Franke was proud of the Owls’ consistent work ethic this season, especially from their two NCAA qualifiers: junior epee fencer Naomi Ross and freshman foil fencer Anna Novoseltseva. 

“What we normally do is what got them here so we just continued with what we normally do,” Franke said. “They’ve been practicing everyday since qualifying.”

Ross and Novoseltseva earned 19th and 21st place finishes respectively after fencing five rounds of round-robin play at the NCAA championships on March 25. No. 10 Temple University fencing concluded its 2021-22 season by combining for a 16th place finish out of 24 teams. 

With two active strips used during competition, compared to one in normal matches, Ross and Novoseltseva had little time to reset and make adjustments to their performance before being called to fence again, which made it difficult to keep up, Ross said. 

Ross thought she struggled with positioning and timing, as well as maintaining her energy during bouts to keep her motivated. Novoseltseva felt rushed to get the first touch on the strip, which was her biggest downfall, she said. 

“I had an overall really fun experience,” Novoseltseva said. “I didn’t do the best but I felt like it really taught me a bunch of lessons mentally and I feel like it’s a great start to reflect onto my upcoming years. It’s something that I can definitely benefit from.”

As competition approached, the two didn’t know what to expect but were determined to do the best they could, Novoseltseva said. The fencers’ preparations for championships remained the same as every other meet this season, which included practices with the entire team. 

Team practices helped perfect any fencing inconsistencies they had, like bending their knees. Ross and Novoseltseva also used their time before competing to work on positive reinforcement, Novoseltseva said.

This was the team’s first NCAA appearance since the 2018-19 season after 2020 NCAA championships were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ross reminded herself that the championships wouldn’t get canceled before she could attend. She had previously qualified for the NCAA championships in 2020, but never competed because of the cancellation.

“It was a big disappointment for her,” Franke said. “She’s been very consistent all year. She’s been someone that we really could depend on and so the consistency definitely paid off.”

For Novoseltseva, despite the challenges she experienced adjusting to being a student athlete away from home, qualifying for the first time as a freshman was her ultimate goal coming into college, she said.

“For her to be able to qualify really speaks volumes to her work ethic, her grit and her determination,” Franke said. “She’s a very focused person and works very, very hard.”

From the start of the season, expectations were high for the Owls as they were ranked eighth in the U.S. Fencing Coaches Association preseason polls. Since then, the team has fought to maintain a top-10 ranking throughout the season.

With more than half of the team being underclassmen and current sophomores lacking experience due to a shortened 2020-21 season, the team made adjustments as players became familiar with juggling the demands of being a student athlete and playing at the college level, Franke said.

After playing 11 regular season matches, the Owls opened postseason play by clinching their 26th straight National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association title. They also took home the team weapon titles for the second consecutive year and earned two of three individual weapon titles before making their NCAA regional appearance. 

At regionals, Ross secured a third-place finish, the highest of the day for the Owls, while Novoseltseva finished seventh and her sister, Elizabeth Novoseltseva, a freshman foil, finished eighth. The remainder of the team placed between 13th and 27th place in their respective categories. 

Now, the team will rest for the next two weeks before resuming training for the upcoming season, Franke said. 

“We have a better idea of what everyone needs to work on,” Franke said. “We can try to work on those things for the couple weeks that we have before the end of the semester so we get a head start on next year.”

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