Past rivals form bond at Rutgers
Fans who have watched the Rutgers women’s soccer team this season may have noticed that two freshmen — midfielders Tori Prager and Madison Tiernan — have a special connection on the field.
Being teammates for six years — first at the club level with the Mount Laurel United Crush and then with the Olympic Development Program — can have that effect.
The two became best friends, and then high school soccer season started.
Prager was a four-year starter and three-time Group 4 N.J. State Champion at Lenape (N.J.) High School. Tiernan donned a Vikings jersey at neighboring Eastern (N.J.) High School for four years.
The two schools were bitter rivals, which made balancing being best friends and fierce competitors a challenge.
“It was hard because our schools really did not like each other,” Prager said. “So if we even spoke each other’s names at our high school practices, we would get glares or dirty looks because we were such enemies.”
The rivalry is the only thing that can make the two teammates, now roommates, fight.
“To this day, we still joke around about the rivalry and who won what game and who lost what game,” Tiernan said. “Sometimes we get a little heated, but we know at the end our friendship’s more important.”
While they were opponents on the high school field, they were also teammates in club soccer.
The two played for the Mount Laurel United (MLU) Crush until high school started.
Then, former head coach John Jenks moved the team to the Player’s Development Academy upon becoming the technical director for PDA South. PDA is well known in soccer circles, both statewide and nationally, for its reputation in developing players.
Prager, Tiernan and freshman defender Erin Smith all played under Jenks before making the jump to the Scarlet Knights.
The impact of the high-level preparation to transition into college was evident from the start for head coach Glenn Crooks.
“I think the transition from club to college is significant. I think one of the reasons they’ve made it so successfully is that nothing really bothers them,” Crooks said. “They’re cool under pressure and they have performed at a high level before coming in. They’ve played many high-level matches on the club and ODP level and high school level to prepare.”
The years spent on the field together have given them chemistry that has developed from playing together for so long.
“Erin also was on our club team too,” Prager said. “So the chemistry that I feel like I have with Erin and Madison is definitely more advanced than I have with the chemistry with the other girls because I’ve been playing with them since I was young. I know the way they play. I know the way they want the ball, what their strengths and weaknesses are.”
Recently, Tiernan fell into a midfield role for the Knights. The connection the duo shares has helped Rutgers as it enters postseason play.
“We know that if one person misses a tackle or something, I know that she’s going to be there for me,” Tiernan said. “We know each other so well after playing together for so long. I think it really does help our team keep the chemistry.”
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