With only two returning seniors, the women’s fencing team has it’s work cut out for them if they hope to retain their national recognition.
Head coaches Nikki Franke and Zoila Palacio know that they have a young team, but they believe that their more experienced players will set the tone.
As team captain, senior Sakinah Shaahid will be looked upon as a model for the rest of the team to follow most of the season.
“Sakinah has come a long way,” Palacio said. “This is only her third year fencing sabre competitively.
“I am hoping this is Sakinah’s best year,” she said.
“She has competed against some strong competition in the past so it is her year to shine.”
For the last two seasons, Shaahid has been named to the All-American team and placed fourth in the NCAA Championship.
In addition, she was named National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association Sabre Champion.
On Nov. 2, the 23rd Annual Temple Fencing Open was held at McGonigle Hall and 22 colleges participated in the event.
While spread out through parts of the building, the majority of fencing took place on the Owls’ basketball court, which had been transformed into a scene similar to Zorro, only without the swinging chandeliers and death-defying stunts.
Fencers were limited to a regulation-sized strip measuring six by 40 feet.
Once you understood the lighting system and what a parry (defensive block) and reposte (offensive attack following a parry) were, it was merely a matter of waiting and watching.
Each bout lasted until one fencer scored 15 points or time ran out.
A tournament was held for each weapon: sabre, foil, and epee.
Points for each weapon are scored based on contact with different parts of the body.
And because the action can sometime be too quick for the eye, electronic registers located within each weapon and within each uniform are used to determine who struck first.
In case of a tie, the judge makes a decision based the fencing rule of “Right of Way.”
Confusing at first, the rule basically states that if a fencer can block an attack and then strike her opponent, that fencer will receive the point over her opponent.
The tournament was grueling for the fencers, taking several hours to complete and testing the endurance of many.
For the most part, the Owls performed up to their expectations, exhibiting their status as a national power.
Shaahid and Temple junior Aziza Hassan fought their way into second and third place, respectively.
Rutgers University senior Alexis Jemal took first place.
In the foil competition, squad leader junior Nerita Brumell finished seventh in the event, while sophomore Jeanne Browne fenced her way into the final round but was defeated by Penn State sophomore Meredith Chin.
For improvement’s sake, it should be noted that at last year’s competition, Browne finished 12th in her event.
The epee competition was fierce, but the Owls managed to place within the top 10. Juniors Stephanie Sargent and Sara Forsythe placed fifth and sixth, respectively.
Coach Palacio was not worried by the absence of an Owl in the final bout.
“Sara and Steph are really stepping up to the plate,” Palacio said.
“We are looking for them to be the leaders and driving forces for the epee squad and so far they are doing a wonderful job.”
The next competition for the Owls will be the Penn State Open on Nov. 16 and 17.
The only two fencers to compete in last year’s final rounds have since graduated, so it will be up to team captain Shaahid to lead the team to a championship.
Franke believes that the team’s “stick-to-it attitude” will play a vital role in performing well for the rest of the season.
“The season’s going to get better as we go along,” Franke said.
“With time I think everyone’s going to see the fruit of their labor. They’ve been working very hard and now it’s just a matter of getting out their and fencing.”
Steve Papurt can be reached at email@example.com.