Temple turns corner at Northwestern Duals

Temple Fencing has used the Northwestern Duals as a launching pad, turning their season around in Chicago in back-to-back seasons.

Temple Fencing turned the corner at the Northwestern Duels for the second straight season with a strong performance against some of the top teams in the nation. | COURTESY / TEMPLE ATHLETICS

This time last year, Temple Fencing was in a rut and looking for a way to turn its season around. The Owls’ eventual performance at the Northwestern Duals helped spark a second half resurgence.

The Owls found themselves in an eerily similar situation this season, sitting just above .500 after losing three of their previous five matches. To get back on track, Temple needed to build some momentum at the same event that turned its season around a year prior.

A trip to Chicago saved the Owls yet again, as they finished with an 8-3 record at the Northwestern Duals on Feb. 3 and 4. They overcame previous struggles against ranked opponents with crucial wins against No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 13 Ohio State. 

“We worked really hard this season and we really worked for that moment,” said foilist Anna Novoseltseva. “Everything that we have been doing just paid off, and we’re really proud of that. We’ve been really hitting our goals and pushing through hard times.”

Temple (17-10) entered the duels sitting at No. 9 in the country. After a successful weekend, the Owls left with newfound momentum for the second half of the season and they now have a chance to finish strong and make an impact on the national fencing scene.

Temple started its season on Dec. 3, 2023 at the Sacred Heart Duals, going undefeated by taking down NYU, NJIT, Vassar and Sacred Heart. Five different Owls won every contest, including saberists Lauren Johnson’s 9-0 record and Eva Ventura’s 8-0 slate. 

That strong start quickly took a turn at the Penn State Invitational. The Owls went 2-3 at the event and followed that up with an underwhelming 3-4 finish at the Philadelphia Invitational. The team quickly started to slip with key losses to five of the top 15 teams in the nation. They fell to every top ranked team during both meets except for No. 3 Columbia. 

“We have a term on our team of being a goldfish,” said saberist Zoe Turner. “Whether it’s a win or a loss or frustration, feel it but then move on. Our goal is to continue that mindset going into the rest of the season.” 

That mindset paid off in Chicago. Temple head coach Jennie Salmon, who is two years into the challenging task of succeeding Hall of Fame coach Nikki Franke, pushed her team to put their best foot forward against its opponents, and the team put together its strongest performance of the season.

The Owls lost to No. 8 Northwestern to start the weekend but won their next three matches against Denison, Lawrence and No. 2 Notre Dame. Several Temple fencers finished day one with eight wins, including Turner, sabreist Alexandra Weinberg and epeeists Lindsey Minor and Margherita Calderaro.

Temple looked even better on day two, finishing with an undefeated slate. They started the day by blanking Detroit Mercy 27-0 and built off that energy to beat Wayne State, Air Force and Incarnate Word. Temple capped off the monumental weekend with a 15-12 victory against No. 13 Ohio State. 

“We’ve had some really big victories,” Salmon said. “The team has really shown its depth in that we have athletes performing, our younger players and our season veterans. A lot of it is attributed to the hard work we do in the training room and the focus we have on the culture of our team and really being there to support each other.”

Ventura led the sabreists with an 11-1 record on the day. Novoseltseva, epeeist Anne-Mai Melles and foilist Anastasia Yankovskiy all earned five wins to lead their weapon sections.

“It’s been a few ups and downs this season,” Turner said. “But having a really successful outcome at Northwestern has shown that this is where we want to be headed, and the work that we’re putting in is taking us to our ultimate end-of-season goals.” 

Beating Notre Dame was the Owls’ most telling win. They lost to the Fighting Irish 20-7 at the Philadelphia Invitational on Jan. 19 but got their revenge in Chicago, winning 18-9 in convincing fashion. 

The Owls have remained among the top 15 in the US Fencing Coaches Association but have fluctuated in and out of the top 10. Temple continued to build off its momentum at the Tar Heels Duals on Feb. 10 and the Duke Invitational on Feb. 11. The Owls finished the weekend with a 7-2 record, falling to only Northwestern and Duke and making a statement to the rest of the field.

“We’re going toe-to-toe with a lot of ranked opponents, strong opponents,” Salmon said. “Our goals are – number one – to focus on fencing. Not think about winning; focus on fencing, focus on how we support each other, how we maintain our energy and bounce back from disappointment.”

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