Even though Caroline McTiernan began playing lacrosse at a young age, the fact that she is going to celebrate senior day in a matter of weeks is something of a shock to the New York native.
"I started playing lacrosse in the third grade," McTiernan recalled. "In fourth grade, I told my dad I never wanted to play again. I thought it was so boring. I was one of the worst girls out there. My dad told me `get a little confidence and see where it goes.' I ended up quitting."
By the fifth grade, however, with all of her friends still playing lacrosse and McTiernan missing her companions, her dad, James, popped her in the car and informed her he had signed her up for lacrosse again and was taking her to practice. After some tears, she relented and agreed to give it another chance.
"Once I learned what I was doing and got better at it, I started to like it," McTiernan recalled. "I thank him every day for pushing me to do it because I don't know that I would be here without having played lacrosse. I have to give him a big thank-you for making me go."
As a sophomore in high school, she got an early opportunity to play on the varsity squad. She translated the experience of playing with older and more-skilled players into an opportunity to improve her own skills.
In 2010 as a first-year at UVa, her game again transformed with the opportunity to play with older players.
"From high school to college, I think the thing that changed the most was the speed," McTiernan said. "In college, it is so much more sets, patterns, plays and I really like how it is team-oriented and a faster pace."
The fact that she was having success on the field also helped the transition. She saw action in 18 games as a freshman, making 10 starts and scoring 13 goals. She has continued to produce for the Cavaliers, scoring nine goals in her first eight games of her final campaign.
"I have a dominant right hand over left," McTiernan said of her game. "[Coaches] Colleen Shearer and Julie Myers have told me that I have quick and good hands and they have really helped and pushed me. Speed was also something that helped me on the field. I've become more physical and a little bit more aggressive since my first year. I am definitely not the most aggressive person on the field, but as a freshman, I was a little more timid and shy. Now that it is my senior year, I go for more things and want to be more aggressive and really stand out. I think a little bit of confidence from my coaches and my teammates has helped that."
McTiernan has two younger sisters, Catherine and Margot, who both play lacrosse, and an older brother, Timmy, who swam at Fairfield. Her family has been incredibly supportive of her career.
"My parents drive from New York for almost every game and leave right after a lot of games," McTiernan said. "They have driven down to Duke, waking up at 4 o'clock, driving down to the game, and then going home. I'd have to say that they are just unbelievable parents raising four of us, and all four of us in different directions. They have been my biggest fans. I would not have made it through without both of them. I thank them every day."
She also has a cousin, Michaela, a student at Holy Cross who has shown unwavering support over the years.
"She never misses a beat," McTiernan said of her cousin. "She always knows who we are playing, how many goals so-and-so scores and has been my biggest fan since she was little. I thank her for it."
McTiernan spends time in the community representing the team and the athletics department as a volunteer with ACE (Athletes Committed to Education), going into classrooms to help out once a week and reading to students, helping them with math or jumping into whatever classroom project is currently under way.
"I absolutely love going to schools with these young kids," McTiernan said. "It is amazing how much they look up to athletes, not only myself but all other sports. The smiles on their faces are priceless."
The history major plans to return to her home just outside New York City once she graduates. An internship last summer with the Executive Vice President of Administration for Major League Baseball has whetted her appetite for a career in special event planning in sports. She looks forward to returning home and starting the job hunt shortly after graduation.