Chris Sailer 'Really Emotional' After Hero's Sendoff in Final Princeton Home Game

PHOTO BY RICH BARNES


Before Princeton coach Chris Sailer took the field against Yale on Saturday, she received a hero’s welcome.

Tigers’ alumnae were everywhere, a sea of orange and black in front of her. There were tiger print tumblers, orange noisemakers, inflatable tigers and leggings with tigers all over them. Many wore t-shirts with the word “GOAT” and a picture of Sailer on the front.

It was a day of postgame dance parties, celebrating Sailer in the Jadwin Gym with a postgame dinner and plenty of photos of Sailer and her former players.

It was a homecoming of sorts, as alumnae returned to give Sailer a fitting sendoff in her last regular season home game after 36 years as the head coach of Princeton.

“To see everyone who came back and filled those stands in orange and black and to celebrate this day, not just my career and relationship with them, was awesome and humbling,” Sailer said. “I was really emotional all day long.”

The magnitude of the game only upped the day’s emotions. Princeton and Yale both entered play 6-0 in the Ivy League, with the conference’s regular season title on the line. On top of that, it was Senior Day for the Tigers’ 10 seniors.

With so much on the line, senior attacker Kyla Sears said the Tigers tried to tune out the noise and focus on the task at hand: winning. Once they accomplished that, “everything else came into place,” Sears said.

The victory ensured the Ivy League title belonged solely to undefeated Princeton — the first team since Princeton in 2015 to run the gamut in the conference. Sears said it was special getting to accomplish this alongside her fellow seniors, many of whom took gap years last season, and during Sailer’s last season as well.







For Sailer, the title was a culmination of the excitement of simply being able to play that she’s seen in her program since the beginning of the school year.

“I remember all the energy when we came to campus in the fall, through all that training and into our first game in Virginia,” Sailer said. “It was a crazy level of excitement. We’re incredibly grateful. When you have something taken away from you, you appreciate it even more.”

The weekend was also a bit of a celebratory goodbye party for the end of the regular season. Princeton went 12-3 in its first full season since 2019 — only losing to top 10 teams Loyola, Stony Brook and Maryland.

Part of this success has stemmed from the development of the Tigers’ underclassmen. Their roster includes 11 freshmen — a combination of members of the high school classes of 2020 and 2021 — and 10 sophomores. Sears was the program’s only attacker who had played in more than five games entering the spring.

As the season progressed, Sailer has witnessed tremendous growth among the team’s underclassmen. Several scorers have emerged, Sailer said, like sophomore Grace Tauckus and freshman McKenzie Blake, who have each scored 30-plus goals.

Sears said she has been “constantly impressed” by the younger players on attack, crediting them with building up the unit.

“We’re really coming into our own,” Sears said. “We want to be identified on the field as really strong, not just young, but a young and mature attack unit.”

As Princeton looks to the Ivy League tournament, this growth on the attacking end will be key to anchoring the team. The Tigers are set to take on Harvard on Friday and will face either Cornell or Yale should they advance to the conference championship game.

After facing both Harvard and Yale within the past two weeks, Sears said she’s prepared for a competitive, fun tournament. Heading into the weekend, Princeton is focusing on where it can improve from past Ivy League battles — and continuing to embrace the opportunity to simply take the field again.

“It’ll be about getting back to our fundamentals, what makes us excel,” Sears said. “Then, at the end of the day, remembering what we’re here for [and] being grateful to get on the field.”

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