Princeton Lax Great Tierney Regains Confidence; Sharp Play in Goal Helps Baltimore to MLL Crown
By Bill Alden
It was a feeling that Trevor Tierney hadn't had since the 2001 NCAA men's lacrosse championship game or the 2002 Lacrosse World Cup title clash.
Warming up in goal for the Baltimore Bayhawks before the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) championship two weeks ago, Tierney was in the zone.
"I feel confident coming into big games," said Tierney, a 2001 Princeton University alum whose sharp work in the net led the Tigers to the NCAA title and team U.S. to the world title. "For some reason, I feel more relaxed and focused. I felt in the present. I was very confident; the team knew what we had to do."
Tierney's focus never wavered the rest of the afternoon, recording 16 saves as the Bayhawks cruised to a 15-9 win over the Long Island Lizards before a crowd of 6,829 at Nickerson Field in Boston.
The 5'11, 200-pound Tierney, an All-American goalie during his Princeton days, almost didn't get the chance to experience that championship feeling.
Over the last year, Tierney became the most traded player in the MLL as he started 2004 with the New Jersey Pride before being traded to the Boston Cannons midway through the season. Then prior to this season, he was traded to Baltimore.
The changes of scenery did not sit well with Tierney. "It's not a lot of fun," said Tierney, the son of legendary Princeton men's lacrosse head coach Bill Tierney.
"It's frustrating. I know how athletes feel when they get traded. When you get to the new team, you're fighting for a position and your teammates don't have confidence in you."
Understandably, the moves also took their toll on Tierney's confidence. "I felt like maybe I wasn't good enough to play at this level any more," acknowledged Tierney. "I wasn't sure if I was going to play this year. I just wasn't enjoying it."
Getting sent to Baltimore gave Tierney a shot in the arm. "Baltimore rejuvenated me," asserted Tierney. "It was the best situation for me. I'm best friends with Josh Sims [a Bayhawks midfielder]. I worked harder over the offseason; I was ready to play. I fit in right away with the guys."
Tierney's comfort level showed up in his play as he helped the Bayhawks get off to a blazing 9-0 start this summer. "My confidence was there," recalled Tierney, who starred at the Hun School before heading across town for his college career.
"The MLL is such a higher level than college; it takes a while to get used to the speed and skills of the shooters. In this league, you're just trying to hang in there and make as many saves as possible. If you save half of the shots, you're doing well."
Despite a late-season lull, which saw Baltimore drop two of its last three regular season games, Tierney came into playoff weekend believing that the club was on track for a title.
"People had been saying that we were in a slump but that wasn't really the case," maintained Tierney, who recently relocated from Denver to Montreal where he is working as a product manager for Reebok's upcoming line of lacrosse products.
"We just needed to be motivated. It is a very business-like team. Gary Gait [Baltimore player-coach] is not a rah-rah guy. He tells you to do your job and that's it."
True to form, after Baltimore took care of business in the final, there weren't any of the histrionics that typically accompany championship post-game ceremonies.
"It was kind of funny," said Tierney. "The guys weren't running around or celebrating very much. Everybody was just saying good game, good game."
Although Tierney may have been calm on the outside in the post-game celebration, he felt a deep pride on the inside.
"It is special to me; I've done a lot of growing up in the last year," said Tierney. "This summer was great for me. A lot of people didn't believe I could play well and I proved that I could. I've won every major title in lacrosse now and I can walk away at any time without unfinished business. It's a great feeling."
For Tierney, this championship may have been the sweetest of them all considering the rocky road he has traveled over the last year.