March 13, 2019

With Sophomore Star Sears Erupting for 6 Goals, PU Women’s Lax Rallies to Top Stony Book 15-14

SIX SHOOTER: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Kyla Sears handles the ball last Saturday against Stony Brook. Sophomore attacker Sears tallied six goals and two assists to help the Tigers rally to a 15-14 win. Sears was lated named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance. Princeton, now 4-1 and ranked eighth nationally, is next in action when it plays at Florida on March 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After piling up 64 goals in 19 games last spring during her freshman year for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team, Kyla Sears wasn’t as prolific in the early going this season.

Entering Princeton’s game against visiting Stony Brook last Saturday, star attacker Sears had seven goals in the first four games in the 2019 campaign.

But finding her finishing touch, Sears erupted for five goals in the first half as the Tigers took a 9-8 lead over the Seawolves.

“Our offense really clicked; we were finding each other, we were giving each other good looks,” said Sears a 5’4 native of Skaneateles, N.Y. “Any player is as successful as their teammates around them; we found each other’s strengths today.

Sears has developed a strong bond with senior Elizabeth George who assisted on two of her first half goals.

“It is a great connection, some days she will have five, six goals and then some days she can have five or six assists,” said Sears. “She is so versatile; she is somebody anyone wants on their offensive line.”

The Princeton offense sputtered early in the second half as Stony Brook went on a 6-1 run to take a 14-10 lead with 14:30 left in regulation.

“They changed up a little bit; they crowded the middle a little more which is where they were getting all of our offensive looks so that was a really smart change by them,” said Sears.

“We just had to find some different offensive sets to put them on their toes a little bit.”

Sears was on her toes down the stretch, making two assists and scoring a goal as the Tigers tallied five unanswered goals in the last 10:01 of the contest to pull out a dramatic 15-14 win.

“I had the successful first half scoring wise and then you have to step back and if the attention comes behind a little bit then we are going to have more openings up top,” said Sears, who ended up with six goals and two assists, matching her career single-game best in goals and setting a new personal mark for points in a game. “I think that was the plan, working off each other and to pull attention from one person and give it to another.”

With eighth-ranked Princeton, now 4-1, having won three in a row since a 14-9 loss to Virginia on February 23, Sears believes that hard work has resulted in the team’s recent surge.

“UVa is a great opponent and I think that was a wakeup call,” said Sears.

“That is who we are going to see if we want to have a good season. From that game, we made a mindset to make our practices harder than any game that we would have. I think that is what let us have such a successful day today.”

Building on her freshman season, Sears is looking to assume more responsibility in the Princeton attack.

“We have younger players behind me who are just as talented and it is trying to find that mesh in the offense which is a fun role,” said Sears.

“I have leaders above me. I think our offense is so versatile age-wise which is is going to give us success for years to come.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer credited Sears with playing a leading role in triggering the victory over Stony Brook.

“Kyla is just getting better and better and she is starting to find a groove,” said Sailer of Sears, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week.

“She is so smart off of the cut. Whether we put her behind the cage or we play her a little more inside, she is able to find some good looks and make a lot of combination plays. We had nine assists on 15 goals, which is what we needed to have against a team like this with their tough zone defense.”

Senior standout George made a lot of big plays against the Seawolves, tallying three goals and four assists.

“George is amazing, we asked her two days ago to change up,” said Sailer of George, who recently passed the 100-point mark in her Princeton career.

“She usually plays up front and we put her behind on the left side. We just thought we wanted to have Tess and Kyla inside against their zone. We thought that was what we needed and Georgie was the person. She ended up having just a monster day; she responded so well to everything we asked of her and then the nine draw controls. That was just a major difference in the game.”

Sailer liked the way her team responded over the last 10 minutes of the contest in overcoming the Stony Brook lead.

“You never want to be down 14-10 late in the second half but we really believe in our players,” said Sailer, who got three goals and an assist from junior star Tess D’Orsi, including the game-winning tally with 2:06 remaining in regulation.

“They fought incredibly hard out there, winning draws, Sam [Fish] making some big saves, and kids making plays all over the place. It was awesome to see. We do have a lot of fight and you could really see that today.”

In Sailer’s view, some of that fighting spirit was prompted by the loss at Virginia.

“We just played so poorly in that game and we knew were capable of so much better,” said Sailer, whose team is next in action when it plays at Florida on Match 19. “I think that is probably the best thing that could have happened to us this season.”

Sears, for her part, believes that the win over Stony Brook showed that Princeton is capable of doing some special things this spring.

“I think it is pure fight and we are a gritty team,” said Sears. “We have been in this position before and we are able to pull out of it and I think that sets momentum for the season. That is a great characteristic to have as opposed to just letting ourselves fold up.”