– The 1992 season was one for the record books for Temple fencing and legendary head coach Nikki Franke
. In foil, the only weapon women competed in at the time, the Owls placed first among women's teams to capture the NCAA Championship in March of that year.
The national title capped a season in which the Owls went 17-1 overall and beat Penn State by a score of 9-7 to win the championship.
"It was tooth and nail," said Franke, who is partial to those days of team competition over the current format which is strictly individual results. "It was very close throughout. Penn State was such a big rival, then and now, and they were the favored team. We were really the underdog with a number of less-seasoned competitors."
Senior Muna Bitar placed fifth for the Owls at the championships and was named All-America for a third time in her career, while sophomore Jennie (Dhondt) Salmon was named Honorable Mention All-America.
Bitar, inducted into the Temple Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007, remains the only three-time All-American in Temple fencing history. In the 1992 season, Bitar finished with a 45-10 record in the regular season and a 14-2 record at the NCAA Championships.
"Muna had been suffering from shin splits for weeks before the NCAA Championships," said Franke. "She had been on crutches. They almost had to carry her off the strip, that's how much pain she was in after the winning bout, but that's the kind of person she was."
Other leaders of the 1992 team included junior Aleizha Batson with a season record of 42-9, and Dhondt, with a season record of 41-14. Sophomore Lisa (Honig) Beckman also finished strong for Temple at 37-14. Rounding out the team that season were April Smith, Dawn Moyer, Alyson Beasley, Carole Burns, Kathryn Dominguez, Kerry Tillet and assistant coach Zoila Palacio.
Teams were allowed five competitors at the NCAA Championships. For Temple, those five were Bitar, Dhondt, Batson, Honig and Smith.
"They were just a great team," said Franke, speaking highly not only of the five but of all their teammates as well. "Their closeness and their work ethic set them apart. To this day they are good friends, the vast majority of them. They were a team that loved the fact that they were representing Temple, and they appreciated every opportunity they were given. They continually pulled out bouts no one expected them to get. They were just there for each other."
Franke is the first-ever coach of Temple's varsity fencing team starting in 1972, and remains the head coach today. Recently completing her 43rd season, she has compiled a career record of 723-207-1. Franke is a four-time United States Fencing Coaches' Association Women's Coach of the Year, was a member of the 1976 and 1980 U.S. Olympic teams and was the USFA National Foil Champion in both 1975 and 1980.