March 24, 2019 | 47° F

Midfielder refines game in offseason

Photo by Edwin Gano |

Sophomore Madison Tiernan scored six goals while adding five assist as a freshman, finishing third on the team in points.

When sophomore midfielder Madison Tiernan arrived to Piscataway last fall, the expectations were high.

Holding the ranking as the No. 1 Girls Soccer Player in New Jersey and Region 1, the Rutgers women’s soccer coaching staff believed Tiernan could play right away and make an immediate impact.

In her first game, she did just that. 

The Voorhees, New Jersey native’s first career goal gave the Scarlet Knights their first win of the season last year during the season opener against Drexel in the 50th minute, igniting what turned out to be an impressive welcome party for the freshman. She went on to finish third on the team in points (17) with six goals and five assists.

One year later, the only thing that’s seemed to change is that Tiernan’s game has blossomed even more. 

Just three games into the season, Tiernan leads the team with six points. With 14 regular season games remaining, she already has two goals and two assists on the year. 

For the second year in a row, she made noise in the opening contest and helped Rutgers set the tone to a solid 3-0 start — this time with a career-high two-goal performance in a 3-1 win over Stony Brook.

To Tiernan, the early taste of success has not made her complacent. It has made her twice as hungry. 

In the offseason, Tiernan went to work in an effort to capitalize on any weak points she could find and improve her game even further. 

“I think it was more of just finding myself — like shooting, more so,” Tiernan said. “Last year, looking back at film and stuff, there’s opportunities where I should have finished. Now those are starting to come because it’s more with confidence and just repetition.”

Tiernan credits first-year head coach Mike O’Neill not only for the elevation of her game, but also for the heightened overall game of the team from top to bottom.

“With Mike taking over, we were focusing a lot more on positions and our relationships — us, me and the forwards with the midfielders — and I think that’s really attributed to my success, personally, and also our team’s success,” she said. “Everyone’s playing to their individual strengths, which is helping out the team. It’s a lot of fun to play when everything’s going your way.” 

O’Neill, who took over the program after the unexpected retirement of former head coach Glenn Crooks on July 23, had high praise for the work ethic of his sophomore midfielder coming into this season. 

“That work ethic is contagious,” he said. “We ask her to give us her best everyday, and that’s what Madison does. When you come in, you know what you’re getting. I think, as a coach, you want to know that you have players you can always count on that are going to train and come to games and going to give you their best every night, and that’s what Madison does.”

Junior midfielder Hayley Katkowski also noted that Tiernan’s mentality and work ethic are the first things that come to mind when thinking about the difference in this year.

“Her work ethic is just really well,” Katkowski said. “She works really hard for her goals and when she gets the opportunity, she finishes.”

For updates on the Rutgers women’s soccer team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

Garrett Stepien

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