Ansonia's Lawlor living the dream with the Huskies
TAMPA – There are rides then there is Tierney Lawlor’s ride.
Two years ago in March, the 5-foot-7 Lawlor’s stage was the Kennedy High School gym in the Naugatuck Valley League semifinals. She was a good player, not the best player on her Ansonia team. The Chargers lost.
Fast forward and see if you can put your head around this. Two American Athletic Conference regular season and tournament championships. Even better, one national championship and a chance for No. 2 with a victory over Notre Dame Tuesday night in Tampa, Florida.
Wait there’s more. Isn’t there always when you are part of the Connecticut women’s basketball program? There’s a 40-0 perfect season and a two-year record of 77-1 not to mention trips all over the United States and getting to throw bounce passes with the likes of Breanna Stewart, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Moriah Jefferson and listen to the dulcet tones of Geno Auriemma.
Monday afternoon there was Lawlor in the middle of the UConn dressing room, talking to the New York Times and television at the Amalie Center. Tuesday night there will be almost 20,000 along with national TV and who knows maybe Tom Cruise will be in the house again.
Heck, Lawlor is even on the front cover of the 2015 NCAA Women’s Final Four Records book handed out to the media at the Final Four.
Man that’s a long way from the Kennedy gym (no offense Eagles’ fans) and Chargerland. Even for Lawlor who has had a while to get used to it now but still shakes her head.
“It’s surreal, coming from the Valley to the national championship,” said the 5-foot-7 walk-on while standing in the middle of a media-drenched locker-room. “I love being with the girls, the people I’ve met, the places we’ve gone. The experience has been awesome.”
So how does a moderately talented high school player get to do business with the finest college program in the country and ma be history. Show a lot of spunk and make it happen. Lawlor wanted to play so she went to former UConn All-American and assistant coach Shea Ralph who set up a tryout.
“You have to be able to play a bit and know the game. You have to be coachable,” said Ralph. “Tierney came in and hit about 70 percent of her shots in the tryout and these weren’t layups. They were 3-pointers and jumpers. We let her join the team for preseason and she worked hard. She kept up with everybody and that is what you need.
“(Walk-on) are not going to play, you need that energy that they provide in practice and Tierney provides that. She’s the perfect addition for us.”
Lawlor loves her playing time when she gets it and with UConn there are more minutes than might be expected simply because UConn’s average margin of victory is 42 points. So often the game is over before the first TV timeout.
She has 13 points this season in 128 minutes with a season and career high six points against SMU, Jan. 11. But, this is about being part of the entire experience.
“I’m just happy to be here,” she said. ‘I’ll do whatever the coach wants me to do, rebound balls, pass, I enjoy it all.”
Why not, the benefits are enormous. Like those national championships
“It’s hard to explain, it’s exciting,” said Lawlor. “It was crazy last year. This year, it’s different. It’s cool. “
Her parents have seen her play in Nashville at the Final Four a year ago and come to games often. She gets to play for that Geno guy.
“That’s cool, he challenges you to work hard and think. He pushes you to make you a better player,” said Lawlor.
Lawlor knows it is all special. She talks about getting chills some games particularly at the Final Four and how close the team is. At times the UConn experience has been overwhelming.
But Lawlor knows she is living the dream. A kid from the Valley with modest basketball talents standing in the Amalie Arena among national media about ready to take the court and play for a national championship. Again.
Now that’s a ride folks. A ride so many would give their inheritances up to hitch a wagon to. Tierney Lawlor is living the dream and enjoying every minute of it. That Kennedy High gym seems a million miles and light years away.
And it is all very, very cool.