High-energy sabre squad leads fencing team in victories

The sabres’ 211 wins are 29 more than the foil squad’s 182 victories.

Sophomore sabres Malia Hee (left) and Kerry Plunkett practice at the Student Pavilion on Feb. 13. | ALEX ST. CLAIR / FILE PHOTO

Temple’s sabres have the most wins of all three squads this season by a significant margin.

With a 211-77 record, the sabres have a better record than the foil squad’s 182-109 mark and the epee squad’s 166-122 record.

The sabre squad has a 7-4 record against schools currently ranked in the CollegeFencing360.com Women’s Coaches Poll, including a victory against No. 1 University of Notre Dame at the Northwestern Duals on Feb. 3. The No. 7 Owls also beat No. 2 Columbia University twice in January.

The sabres attribute their success to their group dynamic and ability to create the “optimal environment” for each other, sophomore Kerry Plunkett said.

“They are a real close-knit group,” said Josh Herring, an assistant coach who guides the sabre squad. “Win or lose, they feed off each other’s energy. They have each other’s backs.”

Plunkett, sophomore Malia Hee and freshman Eva Hinds are alumnae of PDX Fencing Club in Beaverton, Oregon, where they fenced together for about seven years. Plunkett said the trio’s familiarity with each other made it easy to make a “cohesive team.”

Plunkett has won 44 of her 61 bouts, Hee has a 47-19 record and Hinds is 48-16.

Juniors Jessica Rockford and Blessing Olaode also fit right into the squad, Plunkett said. Rockford has a 34-10 record, and Olaode has a 35-15 record this season.

“Knowing Malia and Eva helps us because we know how to better each other,” Plunkett said. “We know what we have to do with one another to get the best. For Jess and Blessing, it was a matter of just sliding in with us and becoming comfortable.”

Rockford said the group likes to keep things “light-hearted,” and it tries to have a high energy level at all times.

“Everything that happens, we try to make the best out of it,” Rockford said. “If any of the others do good in a bout or even a drill, it makes all of us want to get better. We always want to have friendly competition between us. It not only helps us in the sport, but in life too.”

Coach Nikki Franke said the squad is usually the most animated at competitions, even if it isn’t fencing. Sabre is a bit more intense than the other weapons, Plunkett said. The target area for sabre fencers is everything above an opponent’s waist, including the arms and head.

Sabre also has more slashing involved, while epee and foil have more of an emphasis on poking the opponent, according to USA Fencing equipment supplier Blue Gauntlet Fencing’s website.

“They do a good job of keeping each other on task and on focus,” Franke said. “It helps the other squads, too. The energy they show is helpful to keep everyone on point through a long day.”

“The noise is good to distract you from overthinking things,” Plunkett said. “So we like to keep the emotions high and everyone on point, and that all comes from energy.”

Through five dual meets, the sabre squad has a 28-5 head-to-head record. The sabres set a program record with 35 wins last year. Their win total this year matches the program’s second-highest win mark set back in the 2013-14 season.

With one dual competition left, the sabre squad needs one more win to make the last two seasons the winningest seasons in program history.

Hee, Olaode, Plunkett and Rockford were part of the squad that won 35 bouts last year, and they have brought the success over to this year.

“There wasn’t much roster change, only trading a senior for a freshman,” Herring said. “We still had a great core for Eva to come into. The girls have helped me out a lot by creating a great mindset with each other. I always know I will get their best because they make each other perform their best.”

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