Senior leads Rutgers in final season in Piscataway
Every successful team needs a star player it can count on in tough moments to step up.
For the Rutgers women’s soccer team this season, that player has been senior captain Madison Tiernan.
With 19 points this season and 57 in her career, Tiernan is now ninth on the Scarlet Knights’ all-time scoring list.
She has totaled 21 goals and 15 assists in her four years with four games remaining in her final season of eligibility.
Tiernan’s illustrious soccer career began at a young age, but it was freshman year of high school when she began to realize she had the potential to play at the Division I level.
Starting since that first year at Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees, New Jersey, Tiernan had lofty aspirations from the beginning.
“I knew I wanted to play college soccer somewhere,” Tiernan said. “My passion grew for it and I worked as hard as I could to reach that goal.”
In high school, she was a star in both soccer and softball, getting her No. 13 jersey retired in the two sports.
Tiernan dominated as a two-sport athlete, notching 44 goals and 17 assists in her four years at Eastern as well as recording a remarkable .485 batting average.
She won a state championship on the diamond, but her heart always belonged to the pitch.
“Soccer was always my favorite, so when I had to choose, it was pretty easy,” Tiernan said. “I love competing in anything, but after playing high-level club soccer, I was hooked.”
That competitiveness has always been apparent, especially when college coaches started recruiting Tiernan in showcases and tournaments.
Rutgers head coach Mike O’Neill was and still is the Girls Director of Coaching for the Players Development Academy, commonly known as PDA.
He immediately saw the talent and toughness in Tiernan and persuaded her to join the Scarlet Knights when the time came to choose a university.
“I’m a Jersey girl through and through,” Tiernan said. “That and my relationships with the players and coaches made Rutgers feel like home.”
She has produced for the Knights throughout her tenure from the start of her extremely impressive debut season, when she scored six goals with five assists in 22 games.
Tiernan started all but one match as a freshman, ending the season with the third most points on the team and was named to the second team for the American Athletic Conference and was a first team All-Rookie selection.
After Rutgers leapt into the Big Ten the following season, Tiernan did not miss a beat.
She started 19 of 20 contests at forward, finishing second on the team in scoring with six goals and 15 points.
As a result, Tiernan was picked as a Big Ten Player to Watch going into her junior season in 2015.
In that campaign she started in 22 of 23 matches for the Knights, and although it was a down year statistics wise, Tiernan did not stop caring about the team.
“Individual points don’t matter when you’re winning,” Tiernan said. “Our team didn’t care about singular achievements and that’s what carried us to the College Cup.”
The forward came through in the clutch for Rutgers on the way to the semifinal of that competition, as she has time and time again, heading in the game-winner on a corner kick against No. 18 UConn in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
That final four appearance was something Tiernan never envisioned when she decided to attend the University.
She, classmates Erin Smith and Tori Prager all joined the Knights to make the program a national contender, but it surprised them how quickly they got there.
“One of my main goals, besides team success, has been to make Rutgers a place for little girls to want to go to,” Tiernan said. “I think we’ve surpassed my expectations because I see so many kids walking around and training wearing our gear.”
This season Tiernan and the Knights are trying to build on the reputation they’ve attained over the last few years.
She is definitely contributing to that goal as her seven goals and five assists this year give the Voorhees product a new single-season high.
“This year I’m being aggressive because that’s what the team needs me to be,” Tiernan said. “Hopefully I can help us make another postseason run.”
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