Not having a local team of our own in Philadelphia may mean the National Women’s Soccer League flies under the radar of a lot of soccer fans in the area, but you don’t have to look very far to find a team with a fair share of local connections.
Yes, they play in the “New York City” market but Sky Blue FC boasts four players from our area with the South Jersey trio of Carli Lloyd, Erica Skroski and Madison Tiernan and Bucks County native Jen Hoy.
“Just to be from Jersey and still be able to play and have the connections to Jersey soccer is such a great experience,” said Skroski, a Galloway Township native who is in her fourth season with the club.
Skroski and Tiernan, who suffered a season-ending injury in preseason, played against each other in high school — Skroski at Absegami High School and Tiernan at Eastern Regional High School — but became close friends while at Rutgers. They turned pro with Sky Blue in successive years after being selected in the NWSL College Draft in 2016 and 2017.
“I’m a Jersey girl through and through,” said Tiernan, who grew up in Voorhees, where she played for Voorhees Soccer Association for a number of years before making her way to Mount Laurel United and Players Development Academy. “We have that chip on our shoulder, that Jersey edge but we hold that proud and wear it like armor.”
Tiernan still has close ties to her high school — her younger sister Riley won a state championship that eluded Madison last fall — and to youth soccer as a coach with PDA.
“Especially for young girls in clubs in the South Jersey and Philly area they have something to aspire to play at one day with their local pro team,” Tiernan said. “Growing up we didn’t really have that and now there are professional women to watch and see yourself in their shoes one day. It’s achievable.”
Tiernan and Skroski were both still at Rutgers when they watched their future teammate — Delran native and Rutgers alum Lloyd — lead the U.S. to the 2015 World Cup.
“We didn’t really know (Lloyd) but we knew of her obviously and then just getting to know her personally playing with her and being with her all the time has been awesome,” said Skroski, who played for the local club Atlantic United through much of her youth soccer days. “We all share that South Jersey relationship.”
They also share the connection to Philadelphia along with their teammate Hoy, who grew up in Sellersville, Pa. and attended Germantown Academy before starring at Princeton in college. Hoy, who also starred at FC Bucks prior to college, is in her second season with Sky Blue after spending five years with the Chicago Red Stars.
Hoy came off the bench while Skroski started on the back line and Lloyd at forward in the team’s 2-0 opening weekend loss on the road to Washington Spirit. Tiernan was a regular over the past two seasons in the lineup, making 42 appearances.
Sky Blue returns to Piscataway for their home opener at Yurcak Field against the Houston Dash on Saturday night at 6 p.m.
After a tough season with just one win all of last year in the last game of the season, the home opener is their first chance to give show the home fans that this year’s team is on a different course, something both Skroski and Tiernan are optimistic about after overcoming a number of challenges on and off the field in 2018.
“It really truly never gets old,” Skroski said of playing at the venue she’s called home since she was a first-year player at Rutgers in 2012. “Playing in front of a Jersey crowd and Jersey fans — my family comes to all the games, my friends — it really is just an awesome feeling.”