Assistant coach Anastasia Ferdman, a four-time NCAA championship competitor with Penn State, has a message for the four Owls the fencing team will send to the national event this week.
“You are going to lose,” Ferdman said she told the team. “Accept that and move on… If you come prepared… you will be on top.”
Freshman épée Rachael Clark, senior épée Chantal Montrose, junior sabre Tiki Kastor and sophomore foil Fatima Largaespada will represent Temple at the NCAA championships March 20-23 in Columbus, Ohio.
Clark said she didn’t even expect to be fencing into March. Clark, the lone freshman to qualify for the Owls, said she has overachieved this season due to the coaching staff and its constant work with her.
“We’ve worked really hard so I think it is showing in the results,” Clark said.
The NCAA championship, which hosts the Top 24 fencers in each weapon, is nothing new to Montrose, Kastor and Largaespada. Each are participating for the second time.
“Now I know what to expect,” Montrose said. “Now that I’ve been able to mentally be in the place that I need to be in…I’m confident that I can do better this year.”
Largaespada, who qualified last year as a freshman, didn’t know what to expect during her first championship. But she said she is now confident that she can fence her best.
“There were times I had no idea what was going on,” Largaespada said. “Other times I was fencing so well. Other times I was completely not doing what I had to do. Now I remember all of those feelings and I pick the ones I really like how I felt and I try to convince myself to feel that way again.”
The advice given by Ferdman of going in and expecting failure changed the mindset of Clark and Montrose, who will be fencing with a chip of their shoulder.
“I feel like the underdog but that is when I fence my best,” Clark said. “I feel confident that I’ve prepared myself the best I can.”
“I think I fence my best when I think of myself as an underdog and really fight for everything,” Montrose said.
The four have faced many of the qualifiers throughout the season and they said they know what they are capable of.
“I’ve fenced all those girls before and I know I can do it…in the end it is more about how mentally prepared you are,” Largaespada said.
Montrose, who will be fencing in her last meet for Temple, said she doesn’t want to get caught up in the moment because it could only hurt her performance.
“I don’t like to think about the big picture when it comes to fencing,” Montrose said. “I feel like I fence better when I focus on each touch at a time.”
But she understands the four fencers are all Temple has left.
“Ultimately it is down to us four to represent this team,” Montrose said. “We’ve done so well this year so we have to keep it up and make them proud.”
Ferdman said she knows what her fencers can do and that they can make the team proud.
“My hope for them is that they show the things they have been doing every day in practice and give everything they got,” Ferdman said. “I want them to show everyone else that they are there and they are not people to take for granted and they can beat everyone.”
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MikeG2511.