The Temple Invitational is the Owls’ favorite meet of the season. But it’s also a bittersweet one, junior sabre Kerry Plunkett said.
During Sunday’s competition at McGonigle Hall, Temple University honored the seniors from all participating schools, including their own. Epees Fiona Fong and Ally Micek, foil Auset Muhammad and sabres Jessica Rockford and Blessing Olaode provided strong leadership during the past two seasons, coach Nikki Franke said.
In 2017, the current seniors helped Temple set a program record with 34 wins. Last season, the Owls earned 26 wins, including Franke’s 800th of her career, and two current seniors helped the sabre squad rack up 30 wins, the second-highest total in program history.
This year, the seniors’ leadership helped Temple (25-8) earn the No. 7 ranking in the CollegeFencing360.com poll. The Owls nearly matched last season’s win total, despite facing five fewer teams.
In its final dual meet of the season, Temple finished 4-1 in the Temple Invitational with its only loss coming from No. 4 Penn State. Micek led her squad in wins in her last dual meet, including three combined victories against No. 9 Penn and No. 10 Princeton University.
“We wouldn’t be the team we are right now without them,” Franke said. “Their leadership has been great these last two years. They came in strong and they’ve just gotten better as time has gone on.”
All of the seniors’ parents attended Sunday’s meet and came to the court during the ceremony.
“It’s really nice to celebrate with other teams and people you’ve grown up with,” Plunkett said.
Now, the Owls enter postseason play. Temple will compete at the National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association Championships on Saturday in Madison, New Jersey. Then the Owls will compete at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regional on March 9 in Easton, Pennsylvania.
The Owls will attempt to win their 23rd consecutive NIWFA title.
“It’s a tournament we’ve done well at in the past,” Franke said. “It’s the beginning of our postseason. We have to do well there, so we can keep the momentum going.”
After the NIWFA Championships and regionals, one of the Owls’ goals is to have one fencer from each weapon qualify for the NCAA championships in Cleveland on March 23 and 24, Olaode said.
Last season, seniors made postseason milestones. Fong made her first appearance at the regional meet, while Olaode served as an alternate and nearly competed at the NCAA championships. She and the other seniors want to close their careers on a high note.
“I want to give it my all and leave everything on the strip,” Olaode added. “I don’t want to have any regrets going into the end of the season, so I’m just ready to kill it.”