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Chris Sailer reflects on 36 years as women’s lacrosse head coach

<h5>Sailer was inaugurated into the US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame in 2008.</h5>
<h6>Courtesy of GoPrincetonTigers.com.</h6>
Sailer was inaugurated into the US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame in 2008.
Courtesy of GoPrincetonTigers.com.

Chris Sailer has a lot to show for her 36 years as head coach of the Princeton women’s lacrosse team.

Since her first season in 1987, Sailer has earned numerous awards and titles, including 15 Ivy League titles and three NCAA Championships. Under her guidance, the program has made 26 NCAA tournament appearances — including 12 straight from 1998–2009 — and 11 national semifinal appearances.

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Earlier this year, Sailer announced that the 2022 season would be her last. The Daily Princetonian caught up with the US lacrosse hall of famer at the beginning of the busy non-conference schedule to reflect on her career.

Coaching at Princeton has been a perfect fit for me all these years,” Sailer told the ‘Prince.’ “We have a great team around the team here and I’ve been fortunate to work alongside so many smart and committed assistant coaches and support staff who played significant roles in all the success we achieved.”

“Certainly the awards and titles have been nice to receive, but when I look back on my time here, what I’ll really cherish are the people and all the moments we shared together — the grind, the challenges and the triumphs,” she added.

Sailer has been in the lacrosse scene for a long time, beginning her career in seventh grade at her junior high school. “The Philly area was a hotbed for women’s lacrosse in those days,” she said. “I was fortunate to have opportunities to compete at a young age even before the advent of Title IX.”

When speaking with the ‘Prince,’ senior captains Olivia Pugh and Marge Donovan acknowledged Sailer’s abilities as a player, coach, and mentor. They are in awe of her “legendary” lacrosse status and feel inspired and motivated by her leadership.

“She is one of the most knowledgeable and dedicated coaches I’ve had the privilege to play for,” Donovan said. “She has been a role model for me and for every generation of women’s lacrosse players.”

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“She is a legend in women’s lacrosse and has created a lasting legacy for all Princeton women’s lacrosse players and the sport of lacrosse,” Pugh added. “There is a strong sense of tradition for the team and I am connected to all of the women who played under Chris before me.”

Sailer hopes that her players, both past and present, learned “how to be tenacious in pursuit of their goals, resilient in the face of failure, and steadfast in their commitments.” She aimed to instill strong leadership and positive energy into her players, teaching them to bring a “warrior’s mindset to every challenge they face.”

It’s not all tenacity from Sailer, though. The love and care that she gives to her team is truly unmatched in the eyes of her players. Pugh recalled the story of when Sailer stood by her side during her first semester.

“I had an appendicitis scare and found myself in the hospital at 3 a.m.,” Pugh shared. “By 7 a.m., Chris was in the hospital sitting next to the bed while we waited to hear the news from the doctor.”

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When looking forward to the season, Sailer expressed the importance of enjoying the ride, while playing “freely and fiercely.”

“I feel if we can do that, our team will have a lot of success and experience many memorable moments in 2022,” she said.

Donovan also believed in this sentiment. “Our goal for this season is to give the utmost focus, effort, and gratitude every time we get together as a team, whether it be for a practice, lift, film session, or game,” she said. “If we bring this mentality consistently to everything we do, we will be at our best and capable of beating any opponent that we face — in the Ivy League and beyond.”

As seniors, Donovan and Pugh look forward to giving it their all, not only because it is their last season at Princeton, but because it is Sailer’s as well.

Le'Naya Wilkerson is a staff writer for the sports section at the 'Prince.' She can be reached via email at lw7842@princeton.edu.

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