When senior defender Kara Stroup told Megan and Nicole Tiernan about a potential opportunity to play lacrosse and earn master’s degrees in England, they became intrigued.
The one-year master’s program in sports and exercise medicine at the University of Nottingham would allow the twin sisters to study at a university ranked in the top one percent globally and continue to play lacrosse.
They would practice three to five times a week, weightlift once a week and play games every Wednesday.
“I just think it’s a really good opportunity for us just to obviously get a degree from a really good school, but also just to experience something new that we haven’t experienced before, and to do it together,” Megan Tiernan said. “I think it’s just an opportunity that you can’t let go by.”
The program starts in September, with two three-month periods of studying each followed by a month break, then the summer to work on a dissertation. The breaks allow time to explore Europe, which was attractive to the sisters, who have never left the country. They will know if they have been accepted into the program a few weeks after graduation.
Megan and Nicole are both looking at the possibility of becoming athletic trainers or working in another athletic setting.
“I’ve had injuries, I’ve had my best friends, my teammates, have all had injuries and I’ve seen the process of how to start both from an injury through the whole process of recovery then getting back to playing again,” Nicole Tiernan said. “I’ve been in the training room like one million and two times. So I think it’s something that I’ve enjoyed going through as a student-athlete, and I think athletic training is something that I think could be a good profession for me.”
When the other graduating seniors in the Class of 2016 gather for commencement on Friday, Megan and Nicole Tiernan will not be at the Liacouras Center to walk across the stage and accept their kinesiology degrees.
Instead, they, and the other 11 seniors on the team, will be on the lacrosse field. The Owls play Connecticut on Thursday in the Big East Conference Tournament, hosted by Georgetown University.
“Sports kind of shape who we are,” Megan Tiernan said. “I mean, it’s even one of the reasons that we want to win so bad on Saturday is that we don’t want to stop playing. You want to just play for as long as you can, because you know that once this game is over, your lacrosse career is over for most people. It’s kind of shaped who we are, so you don’t want to not technically be an athlete anymore. It’s what we’ve been our whole lives.”
Athletics roots run deep in the Tiernan family.
Megan and Nicole’s older brothers Ryan Tiernan, 25, and Christian Tiernan, 23, played soccer growing up and played intramural sports while at Rutgers University.
After watching their brothers play sports growing up, the twins began playing lacrosse together in fourth grade and went on to earn all-conference honors at Washington Township High School.
They also played field hockey in the fall and ran indoor track during the winter season for the Minutemaids.
“In high school they left in the morning and they didn’t come home until after practice,” said the twin’s mother, Donna Tiernan.
Despite their successes in other sports, lacrosse always took precedence.
“They were track stars in high school and they excelled at track, but they hated it,” Donna Tiernan said. “I guess because it’s an individual sport. They were very nervous running track, even though they were literally the stars of the team. Megan ran the 800 and after like her sixth time running it she won state championships in the 800.”
Upon arriving at Temple, Nicole Tiernan made an immediate impact, scoring eight goals and earning Atlantic-10 All-Rookie team honors. She earned all-Big East honors for her sophomore and junior seasons, scoring a team-leading 35 goals in 2015 to earn first-team honors.
After being a unanimous selection to the preseason all-Big East team, Nicole Tiernan has 18 goals this season, which is sixth on the team. Megan Tiernan has started every game in her junior and senior seasons. She is currently tied for second on the team with 25 goals.
The twins, who have combined for 144 goals in their four seasons, don’t want Temple to be the last place they play lacrosse.
Megan and Nicole Tiernan also have other options open to them post-graduation if they cannot study in Nottingham.
Their fallback plan is to take a year off from school, get jobs to save money and apply to graduate school in the area.
There are also options available if they want to continue playing lacrosse. The United Women’s Lacrosse League, which has teams in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Long Island, New York with 20 players each, will begin its inaugural season this year.
They could also try out for the United States Women’s National Team, led by Georgetown coach Ricky Fried. Nicole Tiernan tried out for the team after her sophomore season, but was not selected out of the field of 84 players.
For them to consider either option, the circumstances need to be right.
“If the opportunity presented itself and I was in a place in my life, where I could, I’d consider it but I think that it would have to be the perfect time, the perfect fit,” Megan Tiernan said. “It’s a commitment to make and if I was in grad school or had a full-time job, I think it might be a little difficult. It would just have to be the perfect fit.”
In whatever post-graduate plans they consider, playing lacrosse will be a factor.
“We enjoy the sport so much,” Nicole Tiernan said. “We’ve spent so much time, money and effort into perfecting the way we play, and we simply enjoy playing. We’ve played for so long that, I mean it’s like second nature to us. It’s like walking. We love to play and we don’t want to stop.”
Evan Easterling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling.