Chris Sailer is in her 32nd season at the helm of the Princeton women’s lacrosse program for the 2017-18 academic year. 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, 25 NCAA tournament appearances and 14 Ivy League titles.
Sailer ranks second in NCAA history among Division I coaches in victories, with an astonishing 399 career wins, and also is the fourth winningest active coach across all divisions and sixth all-time. She has coached more NCAA Tournament games than any other coach, a total of 57 games, and is second in NCAA wins with 35.
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 and has twice been named the Ivy League Coach of the Year.
Overall, she has coached more than 90 IWLCA All-Americas, the 2003 winner of the Tewaaraton Trophy defender Rachael Becker and four other finalists for the award, 94 first-team All-Ivy League selections, and 24 Ivy League Players of the Year major awards. 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 nine of the last 16 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 23 of the last 26 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.
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.
The 2013 team entered the season receiving votes in the national poll and pushed itself into the rankings and finished the season as the highest ranked Ivy League team in the poll at No. 14. The squad was 10-7 and the runner-up in the Ivy League with a 6-1 record, with that lone loss coming in overtime. The Tigers were upset by Dartmouth in double overtime at the Ivy League Tournament, 11-10 but Princeton got one more chance as it received its 21st NCAA Tournament bid. However it was another double overtime defeat as the Tigers lost a 10-9 heartbreaker to Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It was named a Game of the Year finalist in the InsideLacrosse.com year-end awards.
The Ivy League trophy returned to Old Nassau in 2014, as Princeton shared the title with Penn and was the No. 1 seed in the Ivy League Tournament, as it beat Penn in a head-to-head battle. The Tigers defeated Penn State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and lost by just two goals to final four team Virginia in the second round in Charlottesville.
In 2015, Princeton ran the table in the Ivy League and the Ivy tournament, keeping the run going through the NCAA quarterfinals after wins against Fairfield and Stony Brook before a loss to Duke. Though the eight-game win streak ended in Durham in the NCAA quarters, it was Princeton’s longest streak since the 2009 season.
The 2016 squad retained the Ivy League title, sharing it with Penn, and reached the NCAA tournament for the 23rd time. The Tigers had two players Olivia Hompe and Ellie DeGarmo named Top-25 Nominees for the Tewaaraton Award and both captured All-America honors. DeGarmo was named the IWLCA DI Goalie of the Year after leading the nation nearly the entire seasn in save percentage, finishing with a .536.
Winning their fourth consecutive Ivy League title in 2017, the Tigers captured the Ivy League Tournament Championship and earned a bye in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as the No. 5 seed. Princeton reached the quarterfinals with the Hompe leading the nation in goals per game (3.95) and being a top-five finalist for the Tewaaraton Trophy. DeGarmo led the nation in save percentage (.554) and both were first-team All-America selections.
Bringing in the second-best recruiting class in the nation (Inside Lacrosse), Sailer had her work cut out for her with a young defense and the loss of its two All-Americas in goal and on attack. A major turning point came late in March and Princeton went on a 6-1 run through the end of the regular season. The Tigers only loss was an 11-10 game versus No. 2 Maryland, a game in which Princeton led for the first 50 minutes and the game behind decided with 45.1 seconds left. The Tigers won their fifth consecutive Ivy League regular-season title and with a 21-8 win over Penn captured home advantage for the Ivy League Tournament. Princeton again claimed the crown to advance to the NCAA tournament. The Tigers topped Syracuse 12-11 in double overtime before facing No. 4 Boston College in the second round.
Sailer’s teams have been ranked among nationally at some point in the season in each of the last 29 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, a former member of the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Committee, former president, treasurer and board member of the IWLCA and former member of the US Lacrosse Women’s Division Board of Governors. Sailer currently is on the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame Committee and on the board of directors of Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership.
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.