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NCAA title hauls from saber Maia Chamberlain and épée Kasia Nixon, both sophomores, in late March capped off a spectacular finish to a turbulent season for the Princeton women’s fencing team. The duo would lead the Tigers to secure their first ever double-title win, in what was not only a joyous celebration of individual talent, but also an indication of a very bright future for the program.

Princeton qualified nine fencers — four members of the women’s team — to the NCAA tournament this year after avoiding losing records in all of the women’s regular season duals. The Ivy League Tournament in early February saw the Tigers finish second to Columbia off the back of an undefeated win in the tournament last year. Nixon held the leading 17–1 record.

At the NCAA tournament, held at Penn State, Chamberlain and Nixon made their way into the top four before each recording semifinal and final victories to win their respective individual categories. 

Chamberlain described the rush of feelings after winning her final bout: “Right after I scored the winning touch, my mind switched from being focused on my opponent to being receptive of the crowd and my coach. But it was only until I saw my teammates rushing towards me and throwing me in the air that the excitement really hit and I remembered how important this competition was not only for me but for my school.”

Self-confidence and intense focus, meanwhile, were Chamberlain’s secret weapons: “I think the main reason for my success was my ability to stay calm throughout the entire competition. I did not let a few losses in the preliminary round stop my overall momentum and mentality because I never perform at my best when I think of end results or the reputation of my opponent. As long as I have a game plan for my bout and believe in my own actions, all the training that the team and I put in would not go to waste.”

The team, however, would finish seventh out of the 27 competing schools, ending a stretch of consecutive top-four finishes stretching back to 2013. Notre Dame would repeat last year’s successes to secure the team title.

Nixon, the first of Princeton’s two champions to record her win at the tournament, characterized the team mentality as more than what may appear on the surface.

“I would describe the dynamic of the team as expecting hard work and effort, rather than simply results,“ said Nixon. “It is not possible to win every tournament and the Princeton fencing team wants each and every one of us to work as hard as we can, hopefully so that we will win. But that is not a guarantee — hard work, however, is. If you work hard and put in the effort, that is enough for this team."

Discussing the future of the team, Nixon added, “I am most excited about growing with the team, maturing with my present teammates and getting new recruits. This was a tough year for the team, certainly with more downs than ups, but we are a stocky group of fighters. We have proven ourselves to be strong individuals and I would like us to prove ourselves to be a strong team that is capable of winning Ivy Championships and NCAAs once again.”

The Princeton women’s fencing team are driven to work hard and succeed, and this year’s showing exemplifies both incredible talent at the individual level and an opportunity to grow as a team. Along with the support shared between fighters, it shouldn’t be long before the Tigers come roaring back to the top.

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