Tiernan’s late heroics lift Owls in season opener

Junior Nicole Tiernan’s free-position goal in overtime proved the difference in Temple’s 10-9 victory against the Retrievers Wednesday.

Members of the team, including Nicole Barretta and Kira Gensler, celebrate during the team's 10-9 win Wednesday. | Jenny Kerrigan TTN
Members of the team, including Nicole Barretta and Kira Gensler, celebrate during the team's 10-9 win Wednesday. | Jenny Kerrigan TTN

As the sun set on a cold, gusty afternoon at Geasey Field, Nicole Tiernan did what she was expected to do and made a gutsy play.

With two minutes left in the second period of overtime, Tiernan, a junior midfielder who was the lone Temple player to be named to the All-Big East Conference preseason team two weeks ago, was fouled five yards outside of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County goalie crease, giving her a free-position shot and the opportunity to put her team ahead by a goal. When the whistle blew, she charged the net and fired the ball past UMBC’s sophomore goalkeeper Kelly Geilner.

The tally, Tiernan’s second of the game, made it 10-9, and the Owls were able to keep it that way, securing their first victory of the season in comeback fashion.

“I think I was most impressed with how resilient we were down the stretch,” coach Bonnie Rosen said. “We handled the emotional highs and lows of the turnovers, the fouls, the goals, and the pressure of going to overtime, so I was very impressed with how we handled it.”

The game started off with two goals by the Retrievers, followed by three Temple scores in a span of five minutes, including one from dynamic freshman attacker Nicole Barretta.

UMBC responded with two goals of its own, both from senior midfielder Alyssa Semones, a player who Rosen said earlier in the week needed to be controlled in order for her team to win.

“We knew that she was going to make some good runs on us with backdoor cuts and she found some of those opportunities early,” Rosen said. “We adjusted a little bit, changed some matchups, and the team defense got more comfortable with who UMBC was as an offense. Our defense got better all day.”

At halftime, the score was tied at 4, although Temple had many more opportunities to score, totaling 13 shots on goal to UMBC’s six. The second half was a different story, with UMBC racking up 12 shots on goal to Temple’s seven.

UMBC looked to be pulling away with an 8-6 lead and just under 14 minutes left in regulation, but Temple changed the momentum with three straight goals, two by Barretta, who had left early in the game after her first score with an injured finger.

“You have to love her,” Tiernan said of Barretta. “She’s a really smart attacker. I think she works well with a lot of the girls on the team. At one point, she came off and thought she broke her finger, and then came back on the field taped up and scored two more goals. I mean, I think she’s a great attacker. I think she’s a great addition to our team and I’m really excited to play with her.”

With three minutes left in the game, UMBC’s sophomore attacker Mackenzie Reese scored her third goal of the game to record the hat trick and tie the score.

The rest of the way, including the two overtime periods, Temple played stingy defense, including multiple brilliant saves by redshirt junior goalkeeper Jaqi Kakalecik. Junior defender and captain Kara Stroup mentioned a change of strategy as the reason for the sharp defensive finish.

“We were just really focusing in on playing good body defense,” Stroup said. “A lot of their goals were off of plays where we would check instead of hold our body positioning. We were just focusing on really good defense. [We played a] strong and fundamental game that really stopped them and shut them down.”

The Owls will play their next game on Saturday, Feb. 14 at Saint Joseph’s. The City 6 rivals will face off at 3 p.m.

Matt Cockayne can be reached at matthew.cockayne@temple.edu.

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