One of the most impressive teams on campus is one you’ll rarely have the opportunity to watch compete.
Princeton women’s fencing, which has only competed in meets away from the Orange Bubble this season, is now ranked first overall in Division I. The team achieved the ranking through a dominant performance in the Penn Duals tournament on Jan. 23. They are now an undefeated 19–0 on the season and eyeing a deep postseason run.
“I don’t want to say I expected it, but I wasn’t surprised when it happened,” Jessica Lin ’25, an Épée fencer, told The Daily Princetonian. “We have a really strong team … I’m glad our results are reflecting that.”
At the Penn tournament, the then third-ranked Tigers knocked off No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 2 Columbia, No. 5 Ohio State, and No. 6 Northwestern en route to a 5–0 record at the tournament. The wins capped off a weekend which saw the women go 7–0 overall, thanks to wins over Johns Hopkins and No. 8 Temple at the Philadelphia Invitational on Jan. 21, as well as an additional win over Yale at the Penn duals.
In fencing, there are three weapons: epee, foil, and sabre. Each team presents three athletes per weapon, and each athlete competes in three bouts apiece, making 27 bouts total. At Penn duals, the Tigers crushed Notre Dame and Ohio State by the score of 19–8 and beat Northwestern 16–11. Their closest matchup came in a narrow 14–13 win over Columbia.
“Each squad has different strengths,” Lin said. “For women’s epee, Columbia might have been the hardest [match].”
“It was really fun,” Lin added. As a first-year, Lin explained that she was unclear about what to expect going into the season. “I think everyone played their part really well.”
As most high schools don’t have fencing teams, many of the fencers are competing in college fencing’s team-based format for the first time. Lin and her fellow first-year teammates have been competing at a high level against the best teams in the country.
“In college fencing, everything is a five-touch bout,” Lin explained. A win in a given bout is given to the fencer whose weapon first makes legal contact with their opponent five times. “I feel like there’s a lot of pressure to make decisions pretty fast,” she continued.
Lin’s teammate, Maia Weintraub ’25, who competes in foil and won the gold medal in the event at the North American Cup last October, said that team scoring means everyone has to constantly be on their best game.
“You can’t just rely on one fencer, because for each squad there are three people fencing,” she said in an interview with the ‘Prince.’ “If you have one person win all of their bouts, that’s only three out of nine … you need to rely on your teammates and make sure everyone is working at their best.”
The team-based format is not without its benefits, though.
“One of the reasons I was drawn to this school was because of the people on the team,” Weintraub said. “We have really good team cohesion, and we trust each other.”
“Sometimes you have to learn you can’t depend on yourself for help,” Lin added. “You can rely on the team to help you out.”
The Tigers currently sit atop a ranking which sees five of their six Ivy League foes ranked within the top seven. Only Penn is ranked lower, sitting at No. 13 (the seventh Ivy League opponent, Dartmouth, does not have a fencing program). No. 2 Cornell is 18–0 on the year, just one win behind the Tigers. Brown, Columbia, Harvard, and Yale, who occupy ranks No. 4 through No. 7, have a combined record of 47–8. Weintraub said the Ivy League round robin the weekend of Feb. 12 will be crucial in determining the team’s fate.
“[Ivies] are big for us,” Weintraub said. “It’s sort of a bragging rights tournament.”
After Ivy Championships, the team will head back to Philadelphia for the Temple Duals tournament on Feb. 27 before hosting the co-ed NCAA Regionals on Mar. 12 in Jadwin Gym. This will be the Tigers’ only home meet of the season.
Should they progress to Regionals, the Tigers would then travel to Indianapolis for the co-ed National Championship during the last weekend of March. The Tigers have only won this title once in 2013, thanks to dominance in the sabre discipline from Olympian Eliza Stone ’13.
“I feel like there’s some pressure … everyone’s been saying, ‘we want the rings, give us Ivies, give us NCAAs’,” Lin said. “Personally, I feel like I need to calm down, stay humble, and keep working. If everything goes as planned, we have a pretty good shot.”
Wilson Conn is a co-head editor for the Sports section at the ‘Prince’ who typically covers football, basketball, and breaking news. He is also a senior writer for the Podcast section. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @wilson_conn.