Princeton’s fencing team held their place at the top all year — and they definitely ended the season with a bang.
“[We] ended the season with an undefeated Ivy Championship winning women’s team, three Regional champions, seven All-Americans and four Final Four finishers!” junior foil and captain Mohamed Hamza told The Daily Princetonian. “That’s amazing and it makes me so excited for the future of this team.”
Hamza’s comments reflect the incredible success of both the men’s and women’s fencing teams during the 2022 season.
Princeton qualified a total of 19 athletes to compete in the NCAA Championships. Despite this impressive feat, each school is only allowed to bring in a maximum of 12 competitors. Of those 12, seven fencers — first-years Maia Weintraub, Nicholas Lawson, and Jessica Lin; junior Lola Constantino and Hamza; seniors Maia Chamberlain and Galen Cadley — earned All-American honors.
Weintraub’s individual national title in the foil event may have been the best Princeton highlight of the weekend. Dominating in pool play, she won 18 bouts to earn the top seed in the final four-fencer competition. In the final round, Weintraub defeated Notre Dame’s Amita Berthier 15–9 with ease after starting the match with a fast-paced 14–4 lead.
She is the first female Princeton fencer to win an individual NCAA foil title since 2000.
Chamberlain advanced to the final four of the women’s saber event. Chamberlain, like Weintraub, received the top seed after winning 20 bouts in pool play. Unfortunately, she lost a close 15–13 match to Harvard’s Elizabeth Tartakovsky in the semi-final round. This loss ended an incredible collegiate career for Chamberlain. Her final resume includes both a 2018 NCAA individual saber championship title and multiple All-American awards.
Cadley, Lin, and Constantino all placed in the top nine out of 24 of their respective competitions. Cadley earned seventh place in the saber with 15 total wins, while Lin and Constantino placed fifth and ninth with 15 and 13 wins, respectively.
On the men’s side, 6’9” phenom Lawson advanced to the championship round of the Epée after defeating Penn’s Emon Daroian. Lawson lost a close 15–11 matchup against Ohio State’s Gabriel Feinberg, putting him in second place.
“I'm very happy to have come in second and have earned All-American honors, especially as a freshman. It feels like the work I put in this season has paid off, and that's very gratifying,” Lawson told the ‘Prince.’
“We're thrilled with our fourth place finish, especially with such a young team and the majority of us having never competed in an NCAA championship before,” he said.
Lawson also credited his teammates for both his individual and the overall team performance at the National Championships. “The team is very close-knit and the support shown to every member of the team throughout the four days of competition was great,” he said.
Hamza also had a great run at NCAAs. He crushed his pool competition in the men’s foil championship, winning a total of 21 matches to earn the top seed in the final-four playoff. Unfortunately, he lost a nail-biting 15–14 semi-final match to Columbia’s Ashton Daniel.
Hamza also expressed that he felt as if the officiators in this match cost him his trip to the championship round.
“I was disappointed with how my semi-final match ended, particularly because of the out-of-control factors that ultimately led to my loss,” he reflected.
“I’m not one to make excuses and know that I can always work harder and improve on things, but I felt the officiating could have been a little better, but it’s a part of the sport,” Hamza continued. “Upsetting things like this are only fuel for us athletes and it helps us want to dedicate more time and energy into our sport.”
Hamza’s frustrations stem from the “right-of-way” officiating rules in the foil event. The goal for foils is to use only the tip of their sword to touch either the groin or torso area of their opponent. Landing a strike on this area earns a foil one point. When both foils strike each other simultaneously in a one-vs-one match, the official grants the point only to the foil who moved forward towards their opponent first.
Many foils dislike this specific rule because it enables officials to make subjective rulings that can ultimately decide close matches. According to Hamza, this proved to be the case in his final match, where he trailed by just one point.
Despite his disappointing personal finish, Hamza was very proud and impressed with the final results.
“I am very proud of all the fencers in the squad,” he said. “If I remember correctly, the last time we finished in the top four in the nation as a school was 2017, so returning back to the Final Four is an important achievement for us. We feel that this is a fantastic step forward towards our aims of reclaiming the top spot that Notre Dame currently has.”
Akshay Swani is a contributor to the Sports and News sections at the ‘Prince.’ He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.