This past weekend, the Hopkins women’s fencing team swept all of its competition, claiming the Eastern Women’s Fencing Conference Championship. The team went a perfect 7-0, earning its second title in three years.
There were several great performers, including junior Katherine Xiang, who earned her 200th career foil win, and junior Erin Chen, who became the school’s all-time leader in wins in the sabre. However, our Athlete of the Week award is given to senior Maggie Vitale.
The senior from Hampton, N.J. finished the day with a 12-0 record, providing a huge boost to the sabre squad.
The News-Letter: What were the keys to the team’s success in becoming this year’s EWFC champions?
Maggie Vitale: All of the Hopkins fencers are very talented athletes, but it’s really the team’s chemistry that I think led us to such a big win this season. I’ve never met a more supportive group of people, on and off the strip. We want each other to succeed as much as we want ourselves to do well, and I think that’s a big part of what brought us to victory. Our wins are celebrated by everyone, and our losses are an opportunity for everyone to grow. Fencing is an individual sport at its core, but even as we take turns on the strip, none of us truly stand alone on this team.
N-L: How did it feel to start the day off by defeating Stevens, the former reigning champion?
MV: We knew going into the tournament that we were starting with our hardest team of the day. It was definitely a stressful meet since we’re so evenly matched and we knew not just every bout but every touch counted. Beating them felt amazing, but we also knew we still had six more teams to fence. However, I think starting off with such a big win really helped energize us for everything that was to come.
N-L: How have you developed as a fencer over your career at Hopkins?
MV: I’ve been fencing for nine years, but over these last four years at Hopkins, I matured quite a bit both as a fencer and as a person. My former coach used to like to describe fencing as a physical chess game, but for me it took competing at a collegiate level to really understand that. My actions have become much more intentional and less reactive. My level of commitment and perseverance within my fencing has grown the most. Even if I’m losing, exhausted, or sore, I always give 100 percent of myself until the very last touch.
N-L: How have your teammates pushed you over the years and shaped your overall experience at Hopkins?
MV: I love my team beyond words. We’re one big, chaotic and amazing family — and this includes the men’s team as well. They’ve been a big part of keeping me on my feet during my time at Hopkins, and they’re always ready to cheer me on both in fencing and in life.
I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of such a tight knit team. It’s given me a wonderful opportunity to not only grow up but also mentor my younger teammates as they find their way through the Hopkins lifestyle. I wouldn’t be who I am without fencing, but my teammates have given me a backing of strength and passion that can’t be matched anywhere else.
N-L: Having finished undefeated on the day, your preparation clearly paid off. What was your mindset prior to competing and how did you prepare yourself?
MV: I knew going into this tournament that it would be my last one of the season, and given that I’m a senior, that meant it would be the last tournament of my career. Fencing runs in my family — my dad fenced for Rutgers [University], and both of my older siblings fenced for Hopkins.
Since I’m the youngest in my family, it meant this was the end of a legacy of sorts. All I wanted for this tournament was to perform the best I absolutely could. I went into EWFC’s wanting to give it everything I had, and with the support of both my team and my father, that’s exactly what I did.
The Blue Jays will be competing next at the Temple Invitational in Philadelphia, Pa. The event is on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 9 a.m.