The fencing team uncharacteristically ended its season on the wrong end of the strip this past weekend with a 12th place finish at the NCAA Championships.
The Owls were only able to send three fencers – one for each weapon category – to the two-day event held at Brandeis University.
Each weapon consisted of 24 fencers from 25 different schools. Each school could send a maximum of six fencers to the tournament.
Representing Temple was captain Sara Forsythe, senior Aziza Hassan and sophomore Jenna Remmert. Coaches Nikki Franke and Zoila Palacio also made the trip.
“It [was] a really intense competition,” Forsythe said. “You [were] in there with the 23 best fencers in the country.”
The best the Owls could muster was a 13th place finish by Hassan in the sabre division. Forsythe placed 17th in epee while Remmert finished 19th in foil.
“I think I put too much pressure on myself,” Hassan explained, “[because] I usually do very well when I just go out and have fun and I wasn’t having fun.”
Hassan said she began psyching herself for the competition three weeks ago, allowing the stress to build.
Remmert believed that the lack of her team’s presence made things difficult.
Usually, the entire squad is competing and providing each other with support, an integral trait to the Owls’ success over the years.
“We’re so team-oriented and the girls are so supportive of each other,” Franke said. “I think in some ways it threw them off in the beginning because they couldn’t get in their own comfort zone.”
Franke said that many coaches would not mind seeing the Championship format returned to the more team-oriented system used before 1995, when all members could contribute to their team’s point totals.
Franke was pleased with the season’s performances and did not want the fencers to feel depressed over the outing.
“It’s the type of thing where only one person comes away happy and that’s the person who wins,” Franke said. “Everybody else sees that they could’ve done something better.”
Season full of injuries
Despite an impressive regular season record of 20-6, the No. 8 Owls were bothered all season by injuries, and the postseason would be no exception.
The week before the NCAA Regionals, held on March 13, three Owls underwent surgery at Temple University Hospital. Junior Amanda Gerwer had surgery on her knee for the third time since injuring it last season, and freshman Lauren Riesebeck had surgery on her wrist.
Junior Jeanne Browne took a trip to the emergency room late one night after complaining of stomach pains. Doctors discovered that her appendix was ready to burst, and she underwent emergency appendectomy surgery.
Like any hardcore athlete, Browne’s first question after hearing she would be going under the knife was whether or not her fencing season was over. Unfortunately, it was.
When asked if she felt she had let her team down, Browne said, “I know I didn’t because [the surgery] was unavoidable, but I’m really frustrated that I wasn’t there all the way to the end because I really wanted to support my team as long as humanly possible.”
Despite joining the team at the Regionals, Browne’s recuperation time limited her ability to cheer for her teammates.
“It’s hard when there’s someone who’s out, especially someone with such a strong personality like Jeanne’s,” Forsythe said. “We joked all weekend [about] how quiet it was.”
About the only highlight to the Owls postseason was the National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association Championships, held March 7 at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
The Owls have dominated the event in the past, and this year was no exception. Temple took gold in the epee and foil divisions, and silver in sabre.
With the season over and most of the seniors’ college careers nearing an end, Franke said this was a unique group.
“This is such a special group of seniors,” Franke said. “And you say that every year and [that] every group is special. But the maturity and the leadership that this group showed with all the adversity that we had really was something special and we will miss that very much.”
Steve Papurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.