For the second consecutive year, Temple University fencing sent three athletes to the NCAA Championship meet.
And yet again, a Temple fencer received All-American honors.
Senior sabre Blessing Olaode and junior sabre Kerry Plunkett were honored as All-American honorable mentions for finishing in the top 12 of the sabre competition at the NCAA Championships on Saturday and Sunday in Cleveland.
This comes one year after junior foil Kennedy Lovelace, who also competed over the weekend, finished seventh in the foil competition and took home Second Team All-American honors.
Plunkett and Olaode, who placed ninth and 12th respectively, became the Owls’ first sabre All-Americans since Tiki Kastor placed seventh and made the second team in 2014. Lovelace earned an 18th-place finish in the foil competition.
Olaode, who made her first appearance at the NCAA Championships, won 12 of her 23 bouts in the round-robin competition.
Olaode nearly competed at last year’s meet, serving as an alternate. This season, she led the sabre squad to a second-place finish at the January North American Cup and finished her career with a dual meet record of 147-93.
“It was definitely a new experience,” Olaode said. “It was very challenging, in terms of being in a new environment. I think I did relatively well. I’m happy with my result. Obviously, I wish I did better.”
Plunkett, who made her third consecutive championship appearance, won her first seven bouts and finished the event with 13 wins. Plunkett’s performance at this year’s championships was her best in her three years competing at the NCAA Championships. Last season, Plunkett finished 22nd after placing 19th during her freshman campaign in 2017.
Lovelace couldn’t improve on her seventh-place performance at last season’s NCAA Championship, placing 18th in the foil competition. Lovelace earned Second Team All-American honors at last year’s competition but won just eight bouts at the event this season.
As a team, the Owls finished 11th among 21 women’s teams. Columbia University, Penn State and the University of Notre Dame took the top three spots. Notre Dame was ranked No. 1 in the March 10 CollegeFencing360.com poll, while Columbia and Penn State rounded out the top three.
Temple went 0-5 against those three teams but grabbed seven wins against its other ranked opponents.
Facing tough competition all season prepared the fencers for the championships, coach Nikki Franke said.
“It’s something that’s really important to be able to do,” Franke said. “The ultimate goal for a collegiate fencer is to make the NCAA Championship. That really speaks volumes to how hard they’ve worked. It’s nice to see it pay off.”
Even though her collegiate career is over, Olaode will still fence in international tournaments for the Nigerian national team. Olaode’s next competition will be in Seoul, South Korea in April.
Olaode can finally reflect on her time at Temple because her collegiate career is over.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to go to another program,” Olaode said. “I really enjoyed my time here. It’s such an experience because I’ve felt like I was always part of a family. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.”