Endings are bittersweet, with the exception of the Temple women’s fencing season. For the Owl fencers, the ultimate goal of reaching the NCAA Championships was reached.
For the NCAA Fencing Championships, a single school can only qualify six fencers to compete, two athletes at each weapon. Temple’s women’s fencing team qualified five fencers for the two-day competition held at the University of Wisconson-Parkside on March 24th and 25th.
The team struggled on the first day of competition.
“It usually takes some time to get nervous energy out, but they stayed mentally tough,” coach Zoila Palacio said.
By the end of the first day, the kinks had been worked out and the lady owls were ready to fence with authority.
Sophomore Sakinah Shaahid made every effort to impress in her first appearance at the NCAA Championships. Shaahid put together a performance worthy of an ovation.
Fencing against the eventual winner and number-one seed in the sabre tournament, Shaahid gave a valiant effort and lost 9-15. Then, facing last years sabre champion for the third place title, Shaahid again gave an impressive performance by only two touches.
In the end, Sakinah Shaahid was named an All-American for sabre.
She was not the only person who stood tough in the face of stiff competition. Three-time NCAA championship qualifier Julia Korony placed 15th overall in the epee competition.
However, it was her performance against St. John’s University’s international standout, Arlene Stevens, which served notice. Korony found the determination and finesse within herself to defeat Stevens on her way to a strong showing at the meet.
Temple’s foil squad saw the last appearance for two of the team’s strongest leaders, seniors Jaime Beecher and Gina DeIeso. It was the fourth consecutive appearance at the NCAA Championship meet for the two of them.
Beecher and DeIeso managed to close out their fencing careers with style, finishing 12th and 18th respectively. In addition, Beecher was also named Honorable mention All- American.
Rounding out the Temple contingent was epee fencer Sara Forsythe. Forsythe finished 23rd overall in a great showing for her first appearance at the NCAAs. The most promising thing about the freshmen’s performance was the upset she scored. Forsythe managed to put it all together and defeat the eventual Epee winner in an early round.
Coming into the tournament, Temple was ranked 11th in the country among women’s fencing teams. After the tournament, the team was ranked 7th in the country among the women’s teams and 11th among women and men’s teams combined.
This last distinction is most impressive given the fact that Temple does not have a men’s team.
Coach Nikki Franke put it best when describing the performance of her team.
“It was such a strong competition and they were selected to go,” Franke said. “It’s the most we’ve qualified in memory–t speaks highly of the program.”
Although none of the Owls had finished first individually, as a team they finished with a spectacular 19-4 record, making a long season a big success.