No. 9 Temple has a fencing program that is consistently ranked in the Top 10 in the nation under coach Nikki Franke. Franke continues to keep her program going in the right direction by searching the entire country for some of the nation’s top fencers.
This season the fencing squad has girls from eight different states and one from Mexico. Franke’s fencing recruiting starts at the national tournaments, that’s how she has recruited such girls as sophomore sabre Lauren Rangel-Friedman, freshman sabre Petra Khan and senior foil
Mikayla Varadi, all who left their home states of California and Oregon to come to Temple.
“Basically there are a couple of national tournaments so most of the coaches go to the national tournaments where we get too see girls from all over the country,” Franke said. “There’s a national point list that is based on results from the tournaments through the United States Fencing Association so we look at girls that have good results.”
These national tournaments provide Franke the opportunity to scout girls she otherwise wouldn’t know about. A lot of recruits don’t fence just for their high school teams, most fence on private club teams, which is where they get their recognition as top junior fencers across the nation.
“A lot of recruits come out of private clubs – there are private clubs everywhere. In terms of high school programs, New Jersey has the largest high school program in the country,” Franke said. “New York and New Jersey are certainly the hot beds, you have a lot of recruiting on the East Coast and the rest is spread throughout the country.”
Girls such as Varadi and Rangel-Friedman come across the country to compete collegiately because the East Coast boasts some of the country’s top fencers. Of the Top 10 teams in the nation, the teams farthest to the west – Notre Dame and Northwestern – fall in Illinois. Franke said that plays a big role in getting girls to come this far away from home to fence. Only two teams from the west – Stanford and UC San Diego – received votes in the most recent national fencing poll.
“A lot of the girls look forward to coming east because they’ll get a lot of fencing, a lot of competition, so it’s an attraction because a majority of the college programs are on the East Coast,” Franke said. “They want a different experience and having a Top 10 program really helps us in being able to attract some of those top fencers.”
For Rangel-Friedman, choosing Temple and moving from the West Coast was all about the fencing. To fence at a top Division I program Rangel-Friedman had to leave her home of Laguna Niguel, Calif., and come to Philadelphia.
“The fencing team was really the main reason I chose Temple. There are only so many D-I programs in the nation,” Rangel-Friedman said. “I knew some people that were already on the team here so it made the transition pretty easy.”
Last year as a freshman, Rangel-Friedman finished sixth at the Temple Open and finished her year with 29 wins. She has picked up this season right where she left off last season. At USA Fencing’s North American Cup, Rangel-Friedman finished 16th out of 113 competitors.
Rangel-Friedman said the hardest transition she had to make in Philadelphia had nothing to do with fencing or school, but transportation, rather.
“The hardest adjustment was getting around in the urban environment,” Rangel-Friedman said. “Where I come from we drive just about everywhere and here you either walk or take the public transportation.”
Varadi and Khan both left their hometown of Beaverton, Ore., to join Franke and her Temple squad. Varadi has worked her way to becoming the foil team captain in her senior year. Khan is already making an impact as a freshman; she went 4-0 at the Vassar meet on Dec. 1.
Varadi, who said she also looked into attending Penn State and Notre Dame, said Temple had everything she needed in a school.
“When I was deciding I knew I needed an exceptional undergrad nursing program and an exceptional fencing program,” Varadi said. “Temple had both of those and it actually made my decision very easy.”
Franke and her coast-to-coast recruiting style has her team solidified in the Top 10 in the nation. The team went 8-3, defeating host and seventh-ranked Northwestern. The Owls’ losses came to Princeton, Notre Dame and Ohio State, who are all in the Top 4 in the country.
“The coaches will be voting again this week so hopefully we’ll see ourselves move up a few spots after this weekend,” Franke said.
Anthony Bellino can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Bellino_Anthony.