Chris Sailer is in her 27th season at the helm of the Princeton women’s lacrosse program. She was inducted into the US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame in 2008.
She has guided the team to three NCAA championships, 11 national semifinal appearances, 19 NCAA tournament appearances and nine Ivy League titles.
Sailer ranks second among active Division I coaches in victories, with an astonishing 322 career wins, and also is the fifth winningest coach in NCAA history across all divisions. She has coached the most games in NCAA Tournament history, a total of 45 games. She surpassed Cindy Timchal in games won, after the James Madison victory in 2011, winning 30 NCAA games.
Since taking over the program in 1987, she has earned the national Coach of the Year award on three occasions, and has won six Mid-Atlantic regional Coach of the Year awards.
Overall, she has coached 86 IWLCA All-Americas, the 2003 winner of the Tewaaraton Trophy defender Rachael Becker and three other finalists for the award, 76 first-team All-Ivy League selections, 10 Ivy League Players of the Year and nine Ivy League Rookies of the Year. Princeton players won both the Ivy Player and Rookie of the Year awards three straight seasons from 2004-06. In addition, a Princeton women’s lacrosse player has won the C. Otto von Kienbusch Award honoring the school’s top senior female student-athlete in eight of the last 10 years.
Under Sailer’s guidance, Princeton put together a stretch of 12 straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 1998-2009. The team has made the tournament in 18 of the last 21 seasons beginning in 1992. The Tigers reached at least the national semifinals five straight seasons from 1992-96 and again from 2000-04, and at least the quarterfinals 15 consecutive times from 1989-2006.
In 2002 and 2003, Sailer led the Tigers to back-to-back NCAA Championships and the beginning of the finest stretch in program history. Princeton became, at the time, just the second team in the history of the NCAA Championship to win consecutive national titles.
The Tigers’ three-year record from 2002-04 was an impressive 54-6, including a 20-1 mark in the Ivy League. Princeton won 20 straight games in 2002-03 and then won a program-record 28 straight games from 2003-04, with that streak ending in a loss in the NCAA title game to Virginia.
The 2002 Tigers won their final 19 games and smashed the school record books en route to Princeton’s second national title. In addition to the national championship, the team won its first outright Ivy League Championship in five seasons and set program records for wins (19), points (428), goals (291) and assists (137).
In 2003, Sailer led her Tigers to a second straight national championship despite the loss of seven seniors from the year before. Princeton, which won its last nine games after starting the year 1-3, won its last five games of the regular season to earn a share of the Ivy League title and then outscored two opponents 36-9 to advance to their fourth straight semifinal appearance. There, the Tigers won a tight 5-3 defensive battle with top-ranked Loyola in the semifinals before defeating Virginia in overtime 8-7 in the title game.
Princeton’s appearance in the NCAA championship game in 2004 was the team’s fourth in a five-year span. The Tigers, who were ranked No. 1 every week of the regular season, fashioned their first undefeated regular season in team history and the only undefeated regular season in women’s or men’s Division I lacrosse that year.
While Princeton’s last five seasons haven’t ended in final four appearances, they have featured impressive late-season runs to the NCAA tournament.
In 2005, the Tigers won an NCAA tournament game for the sixth straight year, defeating Maryland in the first round, before falling to eventual national champion Northwestern in the quarterfinals.
The 2006 Princeton team, which featured five starting freshmen, peaked at the right time. The Tigers earned a share of the league title before going on an inspiring NCAA tournament run. First, Princeton stunned second-seeded Virginia in Charlottesville in the first round, avenging an early-season defeat. Then, the next weekend, the Tigers came from behind against arch rival Dartmouth in the quarterfinals, only to lose the game by a heartbreaking 7-6 overtime decision.
Princeton earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament in 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2007, the Tigers fell to Virginia in the first round on the road. The past two years, the Tigers seasons have been ended in the quarterfinal round by five-time national champion Northwestern. In 2008, the Tigers defeated Vanderbilt in the first round before falling to the Wildcats 18-11. The 2009 squad dominated Georgetown, 15-9, in the first round game before losing 16-9 in Evanston.
In her 25th season, Sailer brought her team back to the NCAA quarterfinals after missing out on a tournament bid in 2010.
Princeton had one of the toughest schedules in the nation, ranking ninth in the RPI. The Tigers went 12-7 with five wins over teams ranked higher than they, including defeating No. 8 Penn (twice), No. 10 James Madison, No. 12 Georgetown and No. 13 Penn State.
The Tigers won the 2011 Ivy League Tournament as the No. 4 seed, knocking off No. 1 Penn in the semifinals on Penn’s home field, and defeating Harvard in the championship. The Tigers traveled to eighth-seeded James Madison and turned the tables on the team it lost to in mid-March with an 11-10 win. Princeton fell to the defending national champion and top seeded Maryland in the quarterfinals.
Sailer’s teams have been ranked among the top 10 nationally at some point in the season in each of the last 22 years, including appearances at No. 1 in 1989, ’92, ’94, ’95, ’03, ’04 and ’05, and finished at No. 1 in both 2004 and 2002.
Sailer came to Princeton from Penn, where she served as assistant coach for both the field hockey and lacrosse teams Prior to her stint there, she attended the University of Massachusetts, where she earned a master’s degree in sports management.
A 1981 graduate of Harvard, Sailer captained both the lacrosse and field hockey teams in Cambridge. She was a two-time first-team All-Ivy selection in lacrosse and was a member of the U.S. National Team. Sailer received the Radcliffe Alumni Association Award for athletic excellence and leadership her senior year.
In addition to her membership into the US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame, she belongs to four other halls of fame. She is a 1996 inductee to the New England Lacrosse Hall of Fame, a 1997 member of the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame, a 1998 inductee of the Haverford (Pa.) High School Sports Hall of Fame and 2003 class member of the Pennsylvania Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Sailer’s involvement in the sport of women’s lacrosse doesn’t end with coaching. She is actively involved in stimulating the growth of the sport. She is a former chair of the Tewaaraton Trophy selection committee and is a former member of the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Committee. A former president of the IWLCA, Sailer currently is a member on its Board of Directors and sits on the US Lacrosse Women’s Division Board of Governors as the College Coaches Representative.
Her heavy involvement in the sport has earned her the 2008 Diane Geppi-Aikens Memorial Award, presented by the IWLCA for lifetime achievement in contribution to women’s lacrosse.