Nicole Tiernan entered Spring 2015 as Temple’s leading goal scorer, but she isn’t treating this campaign any differently than her previous two.
The junior attacker was the lone player on the Owls’ roster selected to the All-Big East Conference preseason team in February and the only Temple player returning for 2015 that had scored more than 20 goals. However, upon entering the season last month, she said she didn’t feel any added pressure.
“I don’t think it’s pressure, I think it’s more like motivation,” Tiernan said. “It’s motivation to live up to expectations, but I’m not pressured. I don’t feel like people are going to be looking for me to be great. I expect myself to be, but my teammates are going to work with me and I’m going to work with them. We’re going to be a team. They’re not going to look for me to do everything.”
Since the beginning of the season, she has netted 26 goals, two of them game-winners, and put 58 shots on net.
“She is playing confident right now, “ coach Bonnie Rosen said of her team’s leading scorer after Temple’s 11-10 victory against Rutgers last Wednesday. “She has the ability to take players one on one. Rutgers made adjustments on her at halftime, but it didn’t make a difference. Her ability to draw attention is big as well because she can open up opportunities for other players.”
Through the team’s current five-game winning streak, she has scored 19 goals, including six in Temple’s win against the Scarlet Knights under the lights in New Brunswick. Junior midfielder Megan Tiernan, who has seen her twin sister’s skills grow and improve with age, commented on the reason for her offensive outburst this season.
“She has just opened up her options and diversified her game,” Megan Tiernan said. “She used to just roll back and drive down the side [of the field], but now she uses picks, drives down the center, and has picked it up. She uses the left side of the field now as well, and doesn’t restrict herself to the right.”
“A lot of teams that we play now [through nine games] know what I like to do, which is drive right,” she added. “I’ve been trying to work on [different techniques for] getting my shot off.”
At this point in Temple’s season last year, the team was 3-6, and Nicole Tiernan had scored 11 goals. In 2015, through the same amount of games, the Owls are 8-1 while Nicole Tiernan has found the back of the net 26 times, a mark that has her tied for ninth among NCAA Division I competition.
“I’ve been going hard at goal,” Nicole Tiernan said. “But a lot of my production has to do with my lines playing really well. We have been working hard in practice and it has been paying off in games.”
“Teams are starting to limit how easily she gets the ball,” Rosen added. “When she does drive to the cage, they’re putting their top defensive players on her and sending a [double team]. It’s not possible to completely eliminate her when we play good team offense, and when you have a twin like Megan Tiernan on the field it certainly helps as well.”
Her attacking skills aren’t the only thing that have helped the Owls, as Nicole Tiernan ranks second on the team in draw controls with 17, and leads the squad with 13 caused turnovers.
With the team shooting for a Big East Conference tournament bid, and with conference play starting on March 28, the Owls are going to look for Nicole Tiernan’s dominant play to continue.
“She works so hard,” senior captain defender Carli Fitzgerald said of Nicole Tiernan. “She deserves everything she has been getting out of the game.”
Matt Cockayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mattcockayne55.