Vignette: Briane Tierney

Brianne Tierney, the women’s lacrosse team coach.

Amanda Levine

Women’s lacrosse coach Brianne Tierney has always been around sports; her father was a lacrosse coach and her sister played basketball. Tierney played multiple sports growing up, but it wasn’t until tenth grade when she began taking lacrosse seriously.

Tierney began her college lacrosse career at Loyola College-Maryland, but played most of her career at Colgate University. At both the high school and college level, she was constantly surrounded by influential coaches. At Loyola College Diane Geppi-Aikens served as her coach, while Katrina Silva was her coach at Colgate University.

“Diane Geppi-Aikens is sort of a figurehead in women’s lacrosse world and was an amazing coach who passed away of brain cancer right after my freshman year,” Tierney said. “She just kind of created the Loyola lacrosse program and was such a phenomenal lady and a great coach and really cares about us and was a big reason I went to Loyola.”

During her college career Tierney had three season-ending injuries in her five-year career. Her motivation began to change and with a big sports family, Tierney said there was some family pride invovled too.

“I think if I had a kid now that had three season-ending injuries, I’d be like why don’t you step away, find something else to do with your time,” Tierney said. “But I think the fact that I kept coming back to it. After one you’re like I’m going to get back in and have the career I want, and then after the second one ‘Alright well, let’s just get through this’ and see where I come back and what happens and after the third one… make it through a season and be able to play again.”

After finishing her career as a player, Tierney began to transition to the coaching side of lacrosse. She originally wanted to go into sports management and sports law, but didn’t enjoy a traditional 9 to 5 job. In college, Tierney worked with college coaches and agents but missed playing lacrosse, being outside and teaching.

Going from the field to the sidelines because of injuries, Tierney picked up a lot of coaching perspective. From the bench, Tierney was able to get a different point of view that helped her later on with her coaching skills. Kent State assistant coach Morgan Fee said that Tierney makes the environment safe, fun and educational for everybody.

Amanda Glass, an assistant coach for women’s lacrosse, pointed to Tierney’s consistency and transparency that makes her stand out as a great coach. Despite a loss, she’s still able to identify successes.

“I think what she brings is just consistency and that help a new team kind of travel through this whole new journey that they’re going through,” Glass said. “She’s also been so consistent in providing for them while also being so transparent. If she’s upset about how a drill has been done, she’ll let them know, give them a second, recollect, let’s do it better.”

Tierney’s long history as a player and coach have increased her knowledge of the sport, something that exemplifies what other coaches and players want in a coach. Fee described her coaching skills as rambunctious and a coach who likes to get involved in the drills.

“It helps the girls get engaged ‘OK, they know what they’re talking about, because they’re hopping in and showing us how to do it,’” Fee said. “That’s the coaching style that I really respected as a player.”

Fee remembers a time when Tierney attended a Ohio State lacrosse camp and jumped in on the drills that they were practicing. Tierney ended up playing a game of one-on-one against the Buckeyes’ director of operations and didn’t back down.

“She was kind of going really hard, but it was amazing,” Fee said. “For someone to get rattled a little bit, like as a demonstration, she didn’t let her affect her. After watching her go through the demo and then continue to coach … she knows a lot of what she’s doing.”

Though Tierney has been around lacrosse forever, being a female coach in 2019 can bring with it challenges. Tierney said that her knowledge of the game was never questioned, but that men’s and women’s lacrosse are very different in terms of rules.

“You see coaches and professional women who are mothers and you just start kind of like, ‘Oh, she makes it look so easy,’ but you’re kind of getting pulled in a couple different directions,” Tierney said. “Being able to cry about it some days, but make it work has been pretty empowering for me.”

Fee said that Tierney brings with her an aura of empowerment.

“It just brings our positivity level, our encouragement, our empowerment level so much higher than anything else I’ve really been a part of,” Fee said.

With Kent State’s lacrosse program consisting of all underclassman, both coaches had players had no upperclassmen to lean on. There was no one for advice on where to eat, where things are and how things run. Freshman defender Hailee Andry said that Tierney helped with the transition from high school to college lacrosse.

Andry described Tierney as someone who cares about her players and has a clear passion for lacrosse. When she first joined the team she knew that Tierney would bring in good people because “good people bring in good people.”

“Her and the other coaches have kind of been people to look up to as far as our upperclassmen. She’s been a good person to come to for advice,” Andry said. “She’s been there for us, whether it’s academic help, lacrosse help, life — she’s just been there for us.”

Through years of playing sports and coaching, Tierney has gained an inside scope on how to be the best at the game, especially for women in sports. Tierney believes that it is important to not lose your identity as an athlete and take what you learn during the games and attribute it off the field.

“Finding those good athletes and those good attributes and taking them with you off the field, but if you don’t have a good game… it’s not losing yourself in a win or a loss,” Tierney said. “It’s finding success and growth.”