The Temple women’s fencing team, ranked seventh in the nation, continued its success last weekend in the Fencing NCAA Championships at Drew University.
Unlike most NCAA Championship competitions, the Fencing championships are among the most selective. Thirty-two individuals from each region are selected to participate in the competition. Of the 32, only two individuals from each weapon at a single school are eligible to go. Temple qualified five fencers for competition this year: junior Sakinah Shaahid, sophomores Aziza Hassan and Sara Forsythe, freshman Jeanne Browne and senior Stephanie Izzolino.
The team, guided by the expertise of coaches Nikki Franke and Zoila Palacio, came away with a strong showing in this year’s championship. Hassan, fencing sabre, placed 15th overall. Fencing foil, senior Izzolino placed 17th and freshman Browne placed 24th respectively. In the weapon of epee, Forsythe placed 15th overall.
“Everyone has improved so much and only 32 people get to go to NCAA’s so it’s a real honor,” coach Palacio said.
The most impressive performance came from the decorated Shaahid in the weapon of sabre. Shaahid repeated her performance from last year’s NCAA championship with a fourth place finish.
However, according to Shaahid and Palacio, “the level of fencing has risen in sabre, so the fourth place finish speaks very highly of Sakinah’s talent.”
Shaahid went through the early rounds with confidence.
“I was pretty comfortable in the first match against my teammate (Hassan) only because we’re practicing against each other every day and know each other well — going into the second match not so much on edge I was out to try something different because she had beaten me before,” Shaahid said.
In her bout against a Penn State fencer, Shaahid felt as if she rushed one of the matches.
“I felt I could have fenced much stronger,” she said.
Shaahid turned heads with her performance in a bout against Sada Jacobson who is ranked 12th in the world among senior fencers.
“That bout was my hardest and my best of the day. I was disappointed that I lost because I felt I could have won,” Shaahid said. “By the end of the bout I was tired because I’ve never fenced that hard before. I learned a lot, because I saw a lot of things I didn’t think I was capable of doing,” she added.
At the end of the competition Shaahid was awarded first-team All-American honors for her performance.
It was the perfect way to end another great season for the women’s fencing team. They started out with questions concerning the youth of their team (there are six freshmen and three graduating seniors). With this season’s performance, all the questioning was put to rest.
Saudia R. Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org