The fencing team opened the collegiate dual-meet portion of its season with a win Saturday over the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
But the 27-0 victory at Penn’s Weightman/Hutchinson Gym was no ordinary win for Owls coach Nikki Franke.
Temple’s coach for 34 years, Franke’s years of experience showed Saturday, as she claimed her 500th career coaching victory. In her career, Franke has coached the Owls into the national spotlight and rankings. As recent as 2005, the Owls were ranked No. 9.
“It’s a nice culmination and a nice reminder to me of all the people that we have had over the years and how well they’ve done both in fencing and outside [of the sport],” Franke said after her team’s win.
Coaching since the program’s inception in 1972, Franke said the milestone win pushes her to continue working as hard as she has been.
“Fencing has given me a lot. What I’ve tried to do is give some of that love of the sport and passion for fencing back to all of our fencers,” Franke said. “It’s something that I love and that’s why I keep doing it.”
Franke boasts a long list of gleaming accomplishments. She graduated from Brooklyn College in 1972, and placed third at the National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association National Championships that year.
Franke went on to become the United States Fencing Association’s National Foil champion in both 1975 and 1980, as well as a member of the 1976 and 1980 U.S. Summer Olympic Teams.
She said her own fencing career has greatly influenced her ability to coach through parts of four decades.
“I’ve been there and have a good sense of what I’m talking about,” Franke said. “I want [the fencers] to take advantage of what I have to offer.”
Many Owls said they felt it was Franke’s time to be honored, after her years of service to Temple’s program.
Senior Foilist Maryanne Forsythe said Franke has had an influence on her own fencing career.
“She has always given me constant, positive encouragement,” Forsythe said. “She’s a great coach and she does it with a passion which is really important to everyone around her.”
Senior Sabreist Keri Ecker credited her own personal success at Temple to Franke’s vast knowledge and experience of the sport.
“She has so much to teach us and she knows the sport so well,” Ecker said. “She can always see things that we can’t. I couldn’t ask for a better coach.”
Franke will be honored during a halftime ceremony at tomorrow’s men’s basketball game against Xavier at the Liacouras Center.
On Franke’s big day, the Owls finished 3-2 at the Philadelphia Invitational Multi-Meet at Penn. The Owls pitched a shutout against NJIT to open the meet, and knocked off Cornell, 19-8, and Drew, 15-12, later in the day.
They dropped their two other matches, which were both against nationally ranked opponents. No. 7 Northwestern took down the Owls, 18-9, and the meet’s host school, No. 9 Penn, beat Temple, 17-10.
Foilists Samantha Myles and Nina Gernes turned in the Owls’ strongest performances of the day-long event. Myles, a sophomore, finished 6-3, while freshman teammate Gernes ended the day with a 6-1 score.
Forsythe and fellow senior Foilist Jenna Remmert finished 3-8 and 5-2, respectively. Freshman Foilist Sabrina Shapiro went 3-2 on the day.
Like their Foil counterparts, Temple’s Sabre fencers finished the day on a positive note. Squad captain Keri Ecker and freshman Ashlee Phillips each finished 7-7, while sophomore Kristine Jones went 8-6.
Leading the Epee squad was sophomore Marla Nacey, who finished 6-5. Sophomore Brianna Ferrara finished 4-7. Freshmen Melissa Forsythe and Kaitlyn Uckert ended the day 5-4 and 2-3, respectively.
At the Philadelphia Invitational, Franke said she was impressed with how her team performed in some of its earlier preseason tournaments. She added that it will take some time for the Owls to get accustomed to team competitions.
The Temple team consists of 14 fencers, only three of whom are seniors. The remaining 11 Owls are underclassmen. With such a young team, the Owls’ biggest obstacle this season will continue to be constant improvement, Franke said.
“It’s a young team, but they are coming along,” Franke said. “It’s going to take time, but they have been progressing at a very nice rate and we’re excited about the potential that we have on this team.”
Franke finished her thought by conveying her high expectations for the remainder of the season.
“We know we have to work for [a good season],” Franke said. “It’s a Temple philosophy – we’re working-class folks and that’s just what our team is.”
The Owls have the rest of the week off from competitive fencing, before they travel to Penn State for a five-team meet this Saturday.
Melissa DiPento can be reached at email@example.com.