This past Saturday was a special day at McGonigle Hall for Mikayla Varadi and Jill Bratton.
The only seniors on the women’s fencing roster, Varadi and Bratton fenced for the last time in a regular-season meet. It was fitting that they ended their regular season on Temple’s campus where they were honored with a ceremony before fencing against Duke, Penn State, Princeton and St. John’s. For coach Nikki Franke, Varadi and Bratton were more than just outstanding fencers, but leaders of a team that consists of five freshmen, three sophomores and five juniors.
“It’s been great, they are so committed to this team and that’s what makes them very special,” Franke said. “They care about each and every one of the girls, they care about how this team does and not just how they perform but how they function, which is very rare, they’ve shown great leadership and get a lot of respect from the girls.”
For Varadi, the team-leader of the foil squad, the event held extra value. A native of Beaverton, Ore., Varadi’s parents haven’t been able to see her fence much during her four years at Temple. On Saturday, her parents flew in from Oregon, and her sister and brother-in-law took a bus from New York.
“Having my family here was so awesome,” Varadi said. “It meant a lot because it is my senior day. It’s my last tournament, so having them here supporting me was just wonderful.”
Franke, who is on the tail-end of her 40th season as the Owls’ coach said that it was great to see not only Varadi’s parents in attendance for the ceremony but Bratton’s as well.
“Mikayla was very excited about them coming and it’s really nice that Jill’s parents and Mikayla’s parents were here to see them perform at their last meet,” Franke said. “I remember seeing them when they were recruits and meeting parents so it’s just really nice to have them be here and see them fence their final match.”
Varadi, a nursing major, isn’t heading into her post-college days blindly. She plans on going abroad and living on a boat in Greece for two months studying ancient Greece before exploring jobs and internships in nursing.
Varadi has been to the NCAA championships each of her first three years at Temple and said that making it back to the highest level of collegiate fencing is her goal for this postseason.
“I would personally love to go to NCAA’s a fourth-year,” Varadi said. “I went freshman, sophomore and junior years, so it’d be nice to make it back a fourth year.”
Bratton, a member of the epee squad, hails from New York City, reflected on her past three years at Temple just moments after her final tournament. The senior said that she’s grown throughout the past three years but is more than ready to graduate once the fencing postseason is finished.
“It has been a long four years and I’m extremely ready to graduate,” Bratton said. “I really feel that as a person and a fencer that I developed and evolved and I owe a lot of that to the fencing team and the structure that it’s provided.”
Unlike Varadi, Bratton made her debut at the NCAA championships as a junior when she finished 16th in the nation. Her goal for the postseason, like any collegiate fencer, is to make it to San Antonio, Texas, where this year’s NCAA Championships will be held on March 21.
“Individually, I would like to see myself get to championships again,” Bratton said. “I’d like to make at least Top 8 there. I definitely know I can, I proved it to myself here and in practice every day.”
The seniors will fence the National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association Championships as a tune up for the regional championships where they will have the opportunity to qualify for NCAA championships. Franke said she’s looking for the leadership she’s gotten all year from her seniors to keep the team focused moving into the offseason.
“They have to pull everybody back together and get everybody refocused and start preparing for the postseason,” Franke said. “This was our last home meet so we need the continued leadership.”
Anthony Bellino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Bellino_Anthony.