Written by Lauren Murray, Sky Blue FC Contributing Writer
Before they were drafted out of Rutgers University, Erica Skroski and Madison Tiernan had already unknowingly taken part in Sky Blue FC’s culture.
Skroski, who was drafted in 2016, and Tiernan, drafted in 2017, were teammates as Scarlet Knights for three years and got used to calling Yurcak Field home. It has been Sky Blue FC’s home field since 2009 when they played in Women’s Professional Soccer.
The two former Scarlet Knights were fortunate enough to begin their professional soccer careers at the same field they left their standout college careers on.
For Skroski, the realization that she would be back on Yurcak did not hit her until the week leading up to her first Sky Blue FC home game. She was still a student at Rutgers, as she was finishing up her final semester before graduation.
“I think that’s when it hit me,” she said. “That week leading up to it that I get to play on that field again that I have so many memories on. Everyone came out to support me, and it was awesome.”
She said she appreciates being able to play professionally on a field she has become so familiar with, and that ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether she is wearing a Scarlet Knights or Sky Blue FC uniform while on Yurcak.
“Different team, different level of play … but at the end of the day, it’s the same field,” Skroski said. “Half the game is mental, maybe more, so when I step on the field, it’s awesome to be familiar with the field you’ve been on for so long. I think that’s really key for the both of us.”
Then, a year later, Tiernan was drafted as Sky Blue FC’s fourth out of six possible picks of the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) College Draft. The duo were officially together again. Leading up to the draft, Skroski said the two did not want to get there hopes up, as there are 10 teams in the league and anything could happen.
“It’s pretty much like nothing changed, just the level of play and that we’re on a different team now,” Skroski said. “It’s awesome that we get to experience it together in our home state on our home field.”
As the 24th overall pick was called, Skroski was the first person to reach out to Tiernan to congratulate her and celebrate their future together. It was at that moment as well that Tiernan realized that New Jersey and Yurcak Field would continue to be her home.
“She [Skroski] was the first phone call I received after I got drafted,” Tiernan said. “It all sunk in that I was gonna be able to stay home, and obviously play with her, and play on my college field, which is a great feeling.”
Their friendship from Rutgers has also carried over to the professional pitch, which Tiernan has found resourceful in her rookie season.
“I look to her a lot if I’m having a rough day or need any advice,” she said. “I know she’s been through it a little longer than I have. I know that she’s there for me when I need her.”
However, their ties to New Jersey do not begin at Rutgers. Skroski and Tiernan also bring in their New Jersey roots to Sky Blue FC, as both women were born, raised and began to play soccer in the state. Prior to Rutgers, Skroski played for NJSA and Tiernan played for PDA.
They were selected by a team who proudly acknowledges and calls New Jersey its home. Sky Blue FC has deep ties to New Jersey and strongly embodies its state pride. Skroski and Tiernan are two of six players on the active roster reigning from New Jersey. Tiernan said being from New Jersey is more of a personality than anything
“I feel like it’s an edge being from Jersey,” Tiernan said. “People underestimate what you are capable of. We kind of have that blue collar mentality to come in and work hard every single day. Just having pride, even the girls who aren’t from the state, they’re buying into it, and that just makes it that much more special for us to be winning these huge games, especially at home.”
It is also a way for a team to bond and to come together, Skroski said.
“Just to be born and raised (in New Jersey), we’ve kind of had that little edge to us,” she said. “We have that little something else. That’s what we did at Rutgers, too. We really emphasized that. We had so many girls from Jersey on our team, and I think it’s cool that we can start to build that brand at Sky Blue FC and actually be from Jersey.”
Skroski and Tiernan have many accomplishments under their belts, including anchoring the Scarlet Knights to their first trip to the NCAA College Cup final four in 2015. Now, in the midst of a playoff push, they are looking to lift Sky Blue FC into its first NWSL playoff appearance since 2013.
Looking to continue their careers in New Jersey and to accumulate more accolades, they both acknowledged the state for the countless opportunities they’ve received.
“Being born in Jersey, raised in Jersey, staying in Jersey for college, and now I’m getting to play professional in Jersey, it’s kind of just come full circle and I take a lot of pride in that,” Tiernan said.
And that Jersey pride is highly respected and valued by Skroski as well.
“It’s awesome just to be here and to continue to play where we’ve been playing for so long and have that Jersey pride in us,” she said.
About the Author: Lauren Murray is a senior at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, pursuing two bachelor’s degrees in journalism and sport studies. She previously worked as the Assistant Sports Editor of her college’s award-winning newspaper, The Ithacan. As editor, she was awarded First Place for Sports Coverage and Third Place for News Story by the New York Press Association.