JEFFERSON CITY — It’s been a whirlwind year for Ashley Tiernan. After spending two seasons as the head volleyball coach at Letourneau University in Longview, Texas, Tiernan joined Carson-Newman as an assistant indoor coach and head beach volleyball coach.
And that was how the 2019-20 seasons were supposed to play out until former Eagles head volleyball coach Dave Franklin resigned on Oct. 11 and Tiernan was named the interim head coach. With her in command on the floor, the Eagles won the next seven consecutive games, closed out the season winning 17 of their final 19 games and claiming a South Atlantic Conference tournament title.
Tuesday, the “interim” label was removed from Tiernan’s title and she took over officially as the eighth head volleyball coach in Carson-Newman history.
And to add something even more special to the announcement, her and husband Benjamin are expecting a baby in March.
“This has been a phenomenal year so far,” Tiernan said. “I came in as the head beach coach and the assistant indoor volleyball coach and God had bigger plans, obviously. Now, here we are. I’m very excited about that.”
For Director of Athletics Matt Pope, elevating Tiernan might have been the easiest call he’s made since taking the job in Aug. 2018.
“She (Tiernan) did not hurt herself at all in the win-loss column,” Pope said. “This program has really stepped up in support of her leadership and done very well. The way that she leads and the respect that she garners from her student-athletes is apparent to me and to our other senior-level administrators in our department. Making this decision was pretty simple.”
Known as a talented recruiter, of the four incoming freshman Carson-Newman had before she took over the program, all have decided to remain committed to the Eagles program. Tiernan is now actively looking for a new head beach volleyball coach and indoor assistant to take her place.
Under Tiernan, C-N finished the regular season 23-7, its first 20-win season since 2015. They handed then No. 22-ranked Wingate its first loss of the year, 3-1 on Oct. 19, then knocked the Bulldogs out of the SAC tournament 3-1 again on Nov. 22.
“She (Tiernan) obviously knows the Xs and Os of the sport,” Pope said. “But her personality and spirituality and how she leads was very important in our decision in bringing her on as an assistant and making the decision to elevate her was an easy one.”
After losing both games to Queens in the regular season, the Eagles got their revenge with a 3-0 sweep in the SAC tournament championship to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. They face Anderson (S.C) at noon Thursday, the only SAC team they haven’t beaten in 2019.
“It is a very special group of young women that I have had the pleasure of teaching, coaching and leading,” Tiernan said. “They have touched my life more than I have touched them. When I took over, my biggest goal was that the girls would have a really good experience for the rest of the year, build their spirit, believe in them and have a positive attitude every single day. That has turned into such an exciting season with a SAC Championship and moving into this weekend with the NCAA Tournament.”