Monday, May 2, 2022

"This Is A Day I'm Always Going To Remember"

The two parallel lines started near the goal line on Sherrerd Field. 

They stretched out not in a way that would best be measured in distance but instead in time. Not more than 50 yards. No, these lines stretched out for several decades.

There were current Princeton women's lacrosse players who were still in their uniforms, and there were women in their 50s. They were joined together by the common denominator of the woman of the hour, the one who had been celebrated all day, on a Saturday where she added yet another championship to her resume.

These were all Chris Sailer's players, whether they played for her Saturday afternoon, when the Tigers defeated Yale 17-14 to win another Ivy League championship, her seventh straight and 16th overall, or whether they played for her back in the 1980s.

This was her last regular-season home game. Because of the win, it turned out not to be her last game coaching on Sherrerd Field, though.

The win over Yale came in a showdown between two teams who came into the game at 6-0 in the Ivy League, making it winner-take-all for the championship and the right to host the Ivy League tournament this coming weekend. Princeton's win came in a game in which the Tigers never trailed and had the lead for the final 37 minutes, after the final tie of the game came at 5-5 in the second quarter.

As a result, it'll be Yale-Cornell Friday at 4 and then Princeton-Harvard Friday at 7. The championship game will be Sunday at noon, and the winner will get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

There were a few other subplots to the game, most of which involved Kyla Sears. The senior attacker had seven more points with five goals and two assists, and when the game ended she was tied for the Princeton record for career points and alone in first place on Princeton's career assists list.

She's been on a tear of late, with 20 points in her last three games and 32 in her last five. For the year, she has at least six points in seven of the Tigers' 15 games.

She now has 285 career points, which leaves her even with Olivia Hompe at the top of the Princeton career chart. She came into the game tied with Erin McMunn with 91 career assists, and the two she ha against Yale pushed her into sole possession of that record.

Sears, who also knocked out the national anthem again before the game, is now only six goals away from Hompe's record of 198. Keep in mind, she's done this in basically a little more than three seasons.

The game against Yale saw Princeton answer every time the Bulldogs threatened. Twice in the second half Yale put together three-goal runs; both times Princeton came back with three goals of its own.

When it ended, Princeton was able to celebrate the league championship, something that would never been taken for granted. About 20 minutes later, though, it was time to celebrate the coach herself.

During the game, there had been Chris Sailer bobbleheads, Chris Sailer posters, Chris Sailer videos on the big board. There were pictures of her through the years. There were tributes. It was her day.

Eventually, she made that long walk down the center of the line of the decades, past alums who wore "GOAT" t-shirts with Sailer's face on them. She also took the microphone and addressed them, and the rest of those who were still in the stands.

She spoke from the heart, talking about the honor it had been to be their coach. She's won three NCAA championships and made it into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, where there's a path named for her, the Chris Sailer Trail. She's won those 16 Ivy championships, and no coach has ever won more women's lacrosse games at the same Division I school as she has.

For all of that, this wasn't a day for numbers. It was a day for emotion, and Chris Sailer showed all of her emotions to those who came to honor her. 

TigerBlog has known Chris Sailer for a long time. As he listened to her speak, it dawned on him that she has always seemed to exist somewhere on an emotional scale between serious and laughing. Now he was seeing a different side of her.

Now she was tearing up, or at least fighting back the tears. These were emotions that TB hadn't seen from her before. They were pure and genuine and came straight from her heart, which made them the best kind of emotions.

When she announced prior to the season that this would be her last run, she had to know this day was coming. In her wildest dreams she probably couldn't have envisioned that it would have gone any better. 

An Ivy championship. A huge crowd. Perfect weather. Loyal alums everywhere. 

Now there is the Ivy League tournament, and the NCAA tournament looms beyond that. By no means was Saturday the end. 

It's just that it was something very special. She knew it too. That's why, through the tears, this was what she left them with as she wrapped up her time on the mic:

"This is a day I'm always going to remember."

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