Freshman midfielder Kyla Sears of women’s lacrosse was nervous before the team’s opening match against Temple on Feb. 17. She usually listens to music or braids her hair to calm her nerves before a game, but before the start of the first game of her collegiate career, she relied on her teammates.
“I think I would’ve been a lot more nervous if it weren’t for the people around me. Being surrounded by the people that I’m so comfortable with and trust so much really helped ease everything,” Sears said.
Despite her initial jitters, the freshman from Skaneateles, N.Y., went on to contribute four goals and two assists to Princeton’s 17–4 victory against Temple in Philadelphia. She scored a combined total of six goals in the team’s subsequent loss against Virginia and win over Lehigh, then smashed in a personal record of six goals in the 12–10 finish against Brown, which opened Ivy League play last Saturday. The performance rounded up her early season total to sixteen goals and twenty points. As a result, Sears currently leads the team in goals and points, a successful start to the season and her career that can be attributed to the hustle and achievements of her high school years.
Before becoming a Tiger, Sears was a Laker and already an accomplished lacrosse athlete at Skaneateles High School and in the club lacrosse scene. The 2015 No. 1 Young Gun Junior, 2017 Nike Northeast Player of the Year, and 2017 U.S. Lacrosse National Player of the Year received U.S. Lacrosse All-America for three consecutive years and Under Armour All-America honors amongst other accolades in recognition of her talent and hard work that culminated in 282 goals, 138 assists, and 244 ground balls.
She credits the success she achieved during her high school years to the level of competition of the club lacrosse scene in her area of upstate New York.
“Especially when I was younger and learning, I played really competitive club lacrosse in the area outside high school in the offseason. I owe a lot of that experience, playing with really good players around my area to how I developed into the player I am now,” she said.
But before her high school success and string of accolades came a passion for the sport that she inherited from her father.
“I’ve been playing since I was around five years old. It’s kind of a family thing. My dad was really into lacrosse, so it was a bonding thing for us, and I really took to it, had a lot of fun with it, and played ever since,” she said nostalgically.
Though her passion continued well into high school, her last two years, were defined not just with success, but also with injury — an anterior cruciate ligament tear as a junior and meniscus tear as a senior. After a year-long rehabilitation for the ACL injury, Sears was sidelined the first day of her return in her final year. On an optimistic note, she attributed her improvement as a player to her ability to overcome the physical and mental obstacles of her recoveries.
“It was a feeling of pride to keep playing. It’s something I love, and I realized how much I missed it when I couldn’t play for a year. I think that’s a big part of why I’m still into it now. In the end, I think everyone who’s come back from an injury like that becomes a better player,” Sears said.
After three months of healing from her torn meniscus, Sears returned to garner 65 goals, 35 assists, and 69 grounds balls in the remainder of her final season.
Sears then headed to Princeton where she has quickly adjusted to academic and athletic demands with the help of her teammates.
“It’s a learning a process, and it will be a learning process until I’m a senior. But I do think I have adjusted a lot already, and it couldn’t have been possible without the support of the entire team. Our freshman class was brought in so readily and welcomed in all aspects, and I think our adjustment would have been a lot more difficult if it weren’t for the support system that we have in place,” she said about her transition from high school to college.
Having rapidly established herself in college lacrosse, Sears has set her sight on one goal which she shares with her teammates — to become an Ivy League champion. The Tigers have held the Ivy League title for three consecutive years.
For inspiration she looks to her father again, who first instilled her passion for lacrosse. His advice is simple: “Play if it was your last game ever.”