Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

Midfielder Hemmings an integral part of historic NCAA tournament run

A quick search on the Internet reveals that the name Taryn means strong woman warrior.

For Pioneers soccer standout Taryn Hemmings, that fits perfectly. Except for one glaring fact — she looks nothing like a warrior.

The 5-foot-7, 135-pound midfielder sports a winsome smile and domestic demeanor — more librarian than soldier.

But make no mistake; when she steps across that wide white line, a metamorphosis transpires and she turns into all fight.

“Off the field, I’m pretty laid back,” Hemmings says. “But you could say when I start playing I get kind of intense, pretty focused and competitive.”

And those attributes have yielded some noteworthy attention. This fall the junior marketing major from Greeley, Colo., was named the Sun Belt Conference (SBC) Player of the Year and an SBC tournament Most Outstanding Player.

In Louisiana at the SBC championships in early November, she tied a conference record, booting five goals. And she led the team in scoring with 42 points — a feat that helped the Pioneers earn its fourth SBC title in six years and entry into this year’s NCAA tourney.

Although history was against them — no SBC women’s soccer team had ever won a game in the tournament — DU fought off first-round opponent Kentucky and bucked the losing trend with a 2–0 victory. The Pioneers lost a 2–1 heartbreaker to the University of Colorado in the second round.

As a freshman, Hemmings earned All-SBC First Team honors. Last year she led the team in points with 17 and assists with seven and four multi-point games.

And while Pioneers head coach and SBC Coach of the Year Jeff Hooker says there isn’t one player who carries the load, he admits that Hemmings has become a “complete” soccer player and that she wields “a God-given athleticism.”

“Most recently she has learned how to run without the ball and understands where the dangerous spots on the field are,” he says.

But regardless of any individual improvements, Hemmings says the reason she’s been scoring so much is because of the team. “Every player on the team makes all the other players better,” she says.

In fact, Hooker says he’s never seen a team with as much talent as this one.

“The team has come together at the right time,” Hooker says. “Every player really knows their role and what’s expected and they know that if they don’t do their part, someone else will [because] we’ve never had deeper talent.”

The SBC has certainly recognized all that talent. This fall, DU earned five first-team all-conference spots, the most of any other team; seniors Dani Wiley and Laura Mann, junior Jenna Billingsley and sophomore Jessica Keller were honored, along with Hemmings.

But all honors aside, Hemmings says soccer has brought her much more — lessons of a lifetime.

“It’s taught me that teamwork is important — that you need to rely on other people to be successful, and that you can accomplish a lot if you work hard.”

This article originally appeared in The Source, December 2006.

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