At the NCAA Fencing Championships held at Duke University’s Cameron Stadium this past weekend, the Tigers finished their season with three individual second-place silver finalists and a second-place combined team finish (175 pool-play wins).
The men’s and women’s teams fenced side by side at the tournament to contribute to this whopping success, bouting with confidence after their dominant performance at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regionals earlier this March.
“NCAA Championships is the culmination of our college season, and the individual or team title is the highest collegiate result one can earn, so everyone recognizes how high the stakes are,” sophomore épée and second-place finalist Jessica Lin wrote to The Daily Princetonian.
“We believed in ourselves a ton and knew we had the potential to upset the opponents and dominate,” senior foil and second-place finalist Mohamed Hamza added.
The Tigers had the maximum 12 possible fencers selected by the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Fencing Committee for competition, a feat accomplished by only two other universities: Columbia (156 pool-play wins) and Notre Dame (188 pool-play wins). This gave each of the schools an advantage when facing off for the overall title, as each fencer who competes accumulates team points with each win on the strip.
Princeton’s most formidable opponents were men’s and women’s No. 3 ranked Notre Dame, women’s No. 1 ranked Columbia, and men’s No. 1 ranked Harvard (134 pool-play wins).
While the Tigers lost out on the national championship to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who won the honor for the third consecutive time, sophomore épée Ryan Lee has high hopes for Princeton’s program and is proud of the season’s results.
“[The Tigers] have shown everyone this year that Princeton fencing is in contention for best fencing program in the nation,” Lee wrote to the ‘Prince.’
Pool-play wins for the combined team standings are based on a round-robin competition for each weapon (épée, foil, and saber) for each of the men’s and women’s teams. The top four competitors for each weapon then advance to 15-touch semifinal bouts, and subsequently a 15-touch final bout round to determine championship titles in each weapon.
Five members of the women’s fencing team fought their way into their respective weapon’s final four matches: Lin and senior foil May Tieu earned silver placements, while first-year épée Hadley Husisian, sophomore foil Maia Weintraub, and senior saber Chloe Fox-Gitomer were bronze finalists. On the men’s side, Hamza earned silver placement in foil.
“I’m especially proud of the women’s team,” Lin remarked. “With five out of six of our women’s fencers making the Final Four this year, [it is] an unheard of performance.”
Princeton’s second place performance was a significant improvement from their NCAA Championship appearance last season, where they finished fourth overall.
“It’s been a season-long effort that has resulted in 3 silvers and 3 bronzes individually, a 2nd place team finish at NCAAs, and the improvement from last year means the team is on an upward trend for sure,” Hamza wrote to the ‘Prince.’
“Last year, we finished fourth which was a strong result,” Lin noted. “But we knew we could have done better, so coming off of that we were hungry for more.”
Since the NCAA Championships instituted their coed scoring format in 1990, this weekend’s performance only compares to the Tigers’ NCAA title in 2013, and second place finishes in 2012 and 2014.
Looking forward to next season, the team will lose some of their valuable senior leadership such as Hamza and Tieu, but they also have much more to fence for, as the Tigers hope to dethrone Notre Dame and win it all.
Lee said it best, “Be on the lookout for fencing at next season’s meets and championships.”
Ava Seigel is a contributor to the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’
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