April 18, 2018

Sears Making Immediate Impact on Attack As PU Women’s Lax Girds for Stretch Drive

BULLING THROUGH: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Kyla Sears fights past a defender in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman star attacker Sears tallied four goals and an assist as Princeton defeated Yale 18-4. Princeton, which improved to 7-5 overall and 3-1 Ivy League with the win over the Bulldogs, hosts Cornell on April 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For Kyla Sears, singing the national anthem before home games for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team has helped calm her nerves when she hits the field. 

“The funny thing is, I did it in high school and I found out I got way more nervous to sing than when I played,” said Princeton freshman star attacker Sears, who performs the singing duties in tandem with Julia Haney. “So when it was over it is, oh, now we can play.”

Sears was anxious to play last Saturday after No. 20 Princeton suffered a tough 11-10 loss to third-ranked Maryland on Wednesday which saw Sears get disqualified due to a pair of yellow card in the first half as the Tigers squandered an 8-4 lead with 21:15 remaining in regulation.

“The whole team in general had a burning to get back out here on the field,” said Sears, a 5’4 native of Skaneateles, N.Y.

“We played so hard the other night and fell just short. I think today we really came and showed what we can do.”

Sears didn’t waste any time showing her offensive skills against Yale, tallying two goals and an assist as Princeton jumped out to a 8-1 lead at halftime over the Bulldogs

“We have finally gotten into a groove and a rhythm we have been looking for all season,” said Sears.

“Once we get that, I think it is really hard to stop us. What is so special about our offense is that I really trust every single one of them to handle the ball.”

The Tigers pulled away to an 18-4 win, improving to 7-5 overall and 3-1 Ivy League.

“It has been easy to play whatever part I can in the offense,” said Sears, who ended up with four goals and an assist in the victory and now leads the team with 53 points on 39 goals and 14 assists.

“Everybody has a role, whether they are a feeder or a shooter. I think what is so dynamic about out attack is everybody can do both. We can all play any position and that is really good.”

While Sears has faced a challenge in adjusting to the more physical play at the college level, she has quickly found a comfort level with the Tigers.

“I just think it is how much contact there is in college; that is something you have to get used to,” said Sears.

“Being small, you really have to work around that. Other than that, everyone has made it as easy a transition as possible for our freshman class. I think that is a credit to how encouraging our coaches have been, not just to me in particular. It is also the teammates around me, who have encouraged me every day.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer is encouraged by Sears’ sizzling start.

“Kyla is just fantastic; she is such a competitor,” said Sailer. “She has such awareness and game sense. She has a great stick and is explosive. She can catch a ball and make a move inside. She is money on the 8-meter. She has made us better in every way and the kids love playing with her, which is great to see.

Acknowledging that the loss to Maryland was hard to swallow, Sailer believes it showed how the Tigers are getting better and better.

“It is tough to lose a game like that when you are playing so well and have the lead,” said Sailer.

“I think the growth we have shown from the beginning games against Virginia (a 14-10 loss on February 24) and Loyola (a 13-7 loss on March 10) to that Maryland game is phenomenal. We knew we were a younger team this year. You start five freshmen with a lot of kids who have to step up into new roles. It has taken us a while to really hit our stride but I feel we are starting to do that.”

The Tigers knocked Yale off stride with a tenacious defensive effort.

“We didn’t click as well as we would have wanted to on offense, but I thought our ride was phenomenal; we forced so many turnovers on the ride and that was a big emphasis for us,” said Sailer, whose team made Yale commit 21 turnovers on the day.

“We did so well on the draw (winning 16-of-24). Their kid set the Ivy League record; she usually gets 10-plus a game. The defensive unit was awesome today.”

Senior Ellie McNulty scored three goals and junior Elizabeth George added two to help spark the offensive unit. “They are starting to pick it up,” said Sailer. “We need our midfield to do some scoring for us so those two are starting to get it going.”

With Princeton currently sitting in third place in the Ivy standings and the top four making the league’s tourney, Sailer knows the Tigers have to keep it going to earn a shot at postseason play.

“We have three Ivy games left; they are really important Ivy games,” said Sailer, whose team hosts Cornell (6-6 overall, 2-3 Ivy) on April 21. “We are moving in the right direction. We are excited to compete.”

Sears, for her part, is excited for the stretch drive. “If we are not at our peak right now, that is a good thing,” said Sears. “We are on the right path to peak when we need to in the Ivy tournament and hopefully go farther than that.”