A year after matching the program's highest finish under the current NCAA championship format, the Princeton fencing teams head to Ohio State for the NCAA finals beginning Thursday.
Princeton finished fourth last year, bringing home its fourth NCAA trophy since the current men's/women's combined format began in 1990. The Tigers also finished fourth in 1994, 1996 and 1999. Like last year, the 2012 championship will be held at Ohio State's French Field House and St. John Arena.
A new element is an ESPN3 broadcast of the semifinals and finals, after the pool competition is completed. The women's semifinals and final, contested Friday, are available here. The men's semifinals and final, played Sunday, are available here.
Princeton was one of five schools, along with Ohio State, Harvard, Notre Dame and St. John's, to qualify the maximum 12 fencers to the championships.
Before the individual titles are decided, each fencer must complete the gauntlet of 23 bouts over two days, Thursday and Friday for the women, Saturday and Sunday for the men, each victory winning a point for the team.
The first four rounds of women's competition will begin Thursday at 10 a.m., with the final three women's rounds beginning Friday at 9:30 a.m. The gold medal bouts in each weapon will begin at 1:45 p.m. The men's competition will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday with the first four rounds, followed by the final three rounds at 9:30 a.m. Sunday and gold medal bouts at 1:45 p.m.
Princeton has had a top-10 national finish in 19 straight trips to the finals. This will be the 22nd year that the champion will be determined by the total number of bouts won between the men's and women's teams combined. Princeton's finish has gone up each of the last three years, from 10th in 2008 to eighth in 2009, sixth in 2010 and fourth in 2011.
The Ivy League had 54 qualifiers after getting 53 a year ago, this time representing 38 percent of the total 144 fencers. St. John's and Harvard joined the teams with the maximum 12 qualifiers, while Ohio State, Notre Dame and Princeton also did so last year.
Princeton will have one returning and one different entrant in each weapon from last season, except for women's saber in which Eliza Stone and Diamond Wheeler return from the 2011 delegation. Here are Princeton's 12, with the fencer's number of NCAA finals appearances in parentheses followed by previous finishes with asterisks indicating All-America honors:
Men's epee: Edward Kelley (Jr., 1st), Jonathan Yergler (Jr., 3rd, 9*,2*)
Men's foil: Marcus Howard (Sr., 1st), Alexander Mills (Sr., 4th, 12*,11*,8*)
Men's saber: Philip Dershwitz (So., 2nd, 18), Robert Stone (So., 1st)
Women's epee: Katharine Holmes (Fr., 1st), Hannah Safford (Jr., 2nd, 12*)
Women's foil: Eve Levin (So., 2nd, 2*), Ambika Singh (Fr., 1st)
Women's saber: Eliza Stone (Jr., 3rd, 8*,2*), Diamond Wheeler (So., 2nd, 10*)
In the final USFCA poll released Tuesday, March 20, Princeton was ranked first in the women's poll and second in the men's. Ohio State was second in the women's and first in the men's.
A year ago, Princeton placed seven fencers - including five of a possible six women - with All-America honors. Six fencers earned All-America honors in 2010.
Three Tigers earned individual silver medals last year, and all return this year with Eve Levin in foil, Eliza Stone in saber and Jonathan Yergler in epee. If any take the gold this year, it would be the program's first NCAA individual men's title since 2001 and first women's title since 2000. Alexander Mills, with another top-12 finish, would become the first Princeton men's foilist to be a four-time All-America and just the fourth Tiger across the three weapons to do so, the most recent occurrence when Ben Solomon '06 accomplished the feat six years ago.
Live results from the NCAA championship can be accessed here.