Temple University fencing hopes the four freshmen, who make up more than a quarter of the roster, can fill the void left by the departure of five seniors.
Coach Nikki Franke is taking the same approach she always has after the team performed well in 2018-19, she said.
To open the 2019-20 season, six Owls placed in the Top 10 of their events at the Temple Open on Nov. 2 at the Liacouras Center.
“Our coaching is the same,” Franke said. “What we expect, what we demand and holding each other accountable is consistent. What’s consistent about us is not who’s here but we have a program that is very productive and has been successful.”
Last season, Temple finished 25-8 overall, compiling the fourth-most wins in program history. The Owls placed 11th at the NCAA Championships and claimed the National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association Championship for the 24th year in a row.
Temple graduated two sabres, two epees and one foil, which included captain Blessing Olaode and epee squad leaders Fiona Fong and Ally Micek.
This season, Temple is led by captain redshirt-senior epee Quinn Duwelius, who was sidelined most of last season with an ACL tear.
Duwelius placed 33rd of 81 fencers in epee at the Temple Open last week.
“I definitely think we hold ourselves to a very high standard,” Duwelius said. “The senior class is made up of a lot of very talented ladies. I know they’re striving to absolutely knock it out of the park this year.”
The sabre squad will return three upperclassmen — senior Malia Hee, junior Eva Hinds and senior Kerry Plunkett. Plunkett earned 13 wins at the 2019 NCAA Championships, finishing ninth and earning an All-American Honorable Mention.
Hee won the sabre event at the Temple Open, and Plunkett took seventh place.
“I’m excited to finish it out,” Plunkett said. “This is the most mature I’ll be in a fencing career. I’m excited to take this new year with a new level of maturity.”
The Owls added four freshmen to the roster this offseason: epees Margherita Calderaro and Sarah Park and sabres Emma Pincus and Zoe Turner.
All four competed in the Temple Open. Calderaro tied for 11th in epee, and Park took 15th. In sabre, Turner placed 13th, and Pincus finished 25th.
The seniors have been trying to lead the freshmen in the right direction and remind them to “keep it simple” during a competition, Duwelius said.
“Upperclassmen, I don’t view them as scary,” Park said. “I view them more as a teammate, so we connect very well, and I am learning that they know what they’re doing.”
Franke is pleased with how the incoming freshmen have responded to the challenge of becoming college athletes, she said.
“A third of our team is new, so they don’t know what this is all about in terms of college fencing,” Franke said. “It’s been an adjustment period for them, but I’ve been very pleased with how hard they’ve worked and how committed they are.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the name of the Temple fencer in the cutline. The fencer in the photo is senior sabre Kerry Plunkett.