Years after Taylor Herold graduated from James Monroe, her high school coach, Jamie Tierney–Harris, found occasion to bring her up in the restroom of a field hockey training facility in Pottstown, Pa.
A goalie clad in full protective gear with a Penn State jersey was washing her hands, and, when she finished, Tierney–Harris introduced herself.
“I’m like, ‘I coached Taylor Herold,’ ” she recalled. “She just stared at me and said, ‘That girl can get any touch on a ball in front of a goal.’ Just randomly in this bathroom.”
By that point, Herold’s reputation as a scorer had traveled far beyond Fredericksburg, where for four years she starred for the Yellow Jackets. It followed her to Happy Valley, where she went on to earn first team all-Big Ten Conference honors for the Nittany Lions. And it was broadcast to millions when her behind-the-back finish against Rutgers was featured on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays in 2014.
The Free Lance–Star’s field hockey player of the decade had no trouble finding the back of the cage—she did so on 31 occasions as a JM senior in 2010, when she was named Group AA state co-player of the year—no matter the physical price.
“There was never a game where both of my knees weren’t wrapped,” Herold said. “And eventually the wraps would fall off. Every ball, I would die to try and save it.”
Such was Herold’s imperviousness to pain that Tierney–Harris was once forced to rely on snitches in order to gauge how much a nagging injury was affecting her center midfielder.
“There was no taking it easy at practices with her,” Tierney–Harris said. “I’d have to sit her out. I’d have other players come up to me—maybe when they were running or away from me—and they’d say ‘Taylor’s crying.’ She’d look at me, and say, ‘I’m good, I’m fine.’ ”
The Yellow Jackets were better than fine with Herold operating up top. She was a key cog in three state finalist teams from 2008–10, during an era when even district or region supremacy proved a difficult feat.
What resonates with Herold all these years later isn’t any of her many game-winners but rather a wrenching double-overtime loss to Tabb in the 2008 AA/A state final.
“When the last whistle blew, everyone just fell to their knees in exhaustion,” Herold recalled. “It was the best effort we could’ve put forward. Just the fight we put up and how close our team was. I will never, ever forget that game.”
After a Penn State career that saw her score 52 goals, good for ninth all-time in program history, Herold spent four years as an assistant coach at Longwood University. She cherished her time spent working individually with players, even if she had to occasionally suppress her desire to venture onto the playing surface during games.
It’s safe to say Herold’s legacy at James Monroe won’t be forgotten any time soon. She was named the Virginia High School League’s Group AA female athlete of the year in 2010–11.
At her induction into the school’s hall of fame, Tierney–Harris pointed out a humorous facial quirk. In most newspaper photos of Herold from her playing career, her tongue is sticking out, as though she’s unable to contain the excitement brought on by a goal.
“For her, whether she was scoring or a teammate scored, you were going to get a celebration,” Tierney–Harris said. “It was unlike any other player.”