Six Temple fencers make final round at regional competition

The Owls had nine fencers finish in the top 18 of their weapons to rank as semifinalists at Saturday’s NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regional meet at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.

Junior foil Auset Muhammad (right) fences against Penn during the Temple Invitational on Feb. 24 at McGonigle Hall. | JOCELYN BURNS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Twelve Temple fencers competed in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regional on Saturday at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.

The Owls, who are ranked eighth in the Women’s Coaches Poll, had six of their 12 fencers make the finals. Nine Temple fencers finished in the top 18 of their weapons to rank as semifinalists.

The lowest finish for a Temple fencer was 20th. Each weapon had a field of 36 athletes.

Sophomore sabre Malia Hee had the highest finish of the day, taking second place. She had a 9-2 record in pool play.

“It was a long and tough day facing high-level competition,” coach Nikki Franke said. “The girls had to fight for every touch [Saturday]. It’s hard to maintain focus over a very long day. I am happy with how far most of our fencers advanced.”

“Malia got better and better as the day went on,” Franke added. “She was very focused. Once she got to the finals, she was able to relax and fence much stronger than she did earlier in the day.”

Fellow sabres, junior Blessing Olaode and sophomore Kerry Plunkett joined Hee in the finals. Plunkett finished fourth, while Olaode took fifth place despite starting as the 20th seed.

Freshman sabre Eva Hinds finished as a semifinalist in 13th place. She missed making the final by one touch against.

Last year, Temple only had two fencers, Ibrahim and Plunkett, qualify for the NCAA Championships. This year’s championship meet will be held on March 22 and 23 at Penn State.

Regional champions automatically qualify. The formula that decides who else qualifies weighs regional performance 60 percent and gives regular-season performance 40 percent importance.

This year, Franke’s goal is to have three fencers out of a possible maximum of six qualify. Selections for the NCAA Championships will be announced on Tuesday.

“As a whole, the sabres did a very good job,” Franke said. “Blessing made her first final of her career, and it took a hard effort from her to get there based on the seed she started at. They proved they are among some of the better sabre squads in the nation.”

Freshman foil Kari Weiner placed sixth in her first collegiate regional meet. Weiner had a 14-7 record on Saturday. Sophomore Kennedy Lovelace joined Weiner in the final pool by placing 12th overall.

“It was nice to see [Weiner] learn on the fly and fence better as the day went on,” Franke said. “This is a really impressive finish for a freshman in this kind of competition. She really fenced well, particularly in the second half of the finals to help her place sixth.”

Junior foil squad leader Auset Muhammad lost a five-touch fence-off for the 12th spot in the finals to Penn State freshman Lodovica Bicego resulting in her taking 13th place. The fence-off took place due to Muhammad and Bicego having the same number of victories and the same differential between hits scored and hits received ratio in the semifinals.

After she beat Muhammad to advance to the finals, Bicego took home a second place finish for the Penn State.

In her final regional as a Temple fencer, senior epee Safa Ibrahim made the final pool with seven wins in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds. She finished 12th overall. Junior Fiona Fong was the next highest epee finisher in 17th place.

Freshman foil Megan Ross finished 20th in her collegiate regional debut.

Sophomore Camille Simmons and junior Ally Micek took 19th and 20th respectively in epee.

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