Coming off an impressive 2007-2008 campaign that was highlighted by sweeps of the Penn State Multi Meet and the NIFWA Championships, the fencing team played host to the 29th annual Temple Open at McGonigle Hall last weekend.
The Open is known for having the largest competitive field in the United States, as this year’s Open consisted of 30 schools, making it one of the largest in history. In addition, the Open provides fencers with the opportunity to gain competitive experience.
The results were highlighted by junior Kristin Howell winning the epee competition and freshman Kamali Thompson finishing in a tie for third in the sabre.
In addition, junior Melissa Parker finished fifth in the foil, sophomore Grace Wu finished fifth in the epee, sophomore Alyssa Lombardi finished sixth and senior Kaitlyn Uckert finished seventh.
Meanwhile, sophomore Audrey Barroso and junior Christie Griffith finished in a tie for fifth and eighth, respectively, in the sabre.
“I think this is a very good tournament for us,” coach Nikki Franke said. “It’s the second tournament of the year. [So] especially for those newcomers, they had that first tournament, which is under their belt.”
That first competition, the Penn State Open, helped give the team its own identity.
“This team has their own character. The girls are very pleased with how hard they’re working and how well they’re working together,” Franke added. “It’s a unique team, and we want to be challenged.”
It will be a new squad, as the Owls graduated four seniors last year and are left with three fencers leading things this season. One of them is team captain Uckert, who finished last season 35-11 while qualifying for the NCAA Regionals.
“We have a very new team, and we are trying to keep their spirits up,” she said. “We’re very competitive, and we just want to keep that competition high along with our levels of our enthusiasm and spirit.”
As for the five incoming freshmen, Uckert only has two words of advice for them.
“Stay calm,” she said.
Perhaps being relaxed helped the Owls prepare for the Temple Open, which, Uckert said, isn’t all that pressure-filled, despite being such a large fencing competition.
“The Temple Open is a little bit more relaxed,” she said. “So it’s just a position for us to have fun, to really know that this is our turf, and that this is our first and only home meet of the year.”
Another reason for the relaxation may have been that the Owls already finished the Penn State Open, the other large individual tournament, earlier this month. The Owls entered that competition with nine returning letter-winners, most notably, all-Americans Kristin Howell and Melissa Parker.
Parker, who became Temple’s first second team all-American since Lisa Honig in 1994, finished last season 28-14, while placing second in the NCAA Regionals. She made the foil finals at the Penn State Open, where she finished sixth.
Howell, who became Temple’s first epee all-American, ended last season at 27-10 and finished ninth in the NCAA Championships and second in the U.S. Fencing Junior Olympics. She was ranked No. 8 in the nation and earned the Female Student-Athlete of the Year award.
Lombardi’s qualifying for the NCAA Regionals last season has prompted her and all the other fencers to work extra hard.
“We’ve set the bar high,” she said. “We swept in all the weapons they had there [at the NIFWA Championships] last year, and I hope we can do it again this year.”
The Owls return to action Dec. 6 in the Vassar College Multi-Meet in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Joe Polinsky can be reached at email@example.com.