Sports

She lives in Belleville and wants to win a state soccer title — in Missouri

Belleville native explains why she chose to play for a Missouri school

Tierney Lanter, a Belleville native who attends Nerinx Hall High School in St. Louis, is one of the leaders on a talented Pirates team that has just one loss. Lanter, a center back, talks about living in Belleville and playing in St. Louis.
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Tierney Lanter, a Belleville native who attends Nerinx Hall High School in St. Louis, is one of the leaders on a talented Pirates team that has just one loss. Lanter, a center back, talks about living in Belleville and playing in St. Louis.

A St. Louis girls soccer power has a player from Belleville in the middle of its domination.

Senior Tierney Lanter, who resides in the Mascoutah High School district in east Belleville, attends Nerinx Hall in Webster Groves and is a center back with the Markers.

Nerinx Hall is 15-1 overall and 4-0 in the Metro Women's Athletics Association with five regular-season games remaining. Its only loss came 3-1 against host Columbia on April 19. The Eagles are a top-tier team in the metro-east.

The Markers, ranked seventh in the Midwest Region by topdrawersoccer.com, are coming off a 1-0 victory in penalty kicks Monday against No. 1 rival St. Joseph's. It was their first win in the series since a 2-1 decision April 24, 2012, a span of nine games, and it gave coach Brian Haddock his 200th career triumph.

Nerinx Hall has nine seniors on its roster. Lanter, who is one of four seniors to play on the varsity level all four years, said it's difficult not to dream of a state championship.

"It's on our mind," Lanter said. "This team is just so incredible. Our chemistry is so good on and off the field. We all love each other so much and we know how to work off each other. So it's definitely on our mind. We have a good chance.

"This team has been so great. This is definitely, by far, the best season we've ever had. The chemistry between all of us is so incredible. We've had some tough games, but adversity makes us the best we can be, so it's awesome."

With Lanter and senior Margaret LaVigne leading a staunch defense that has surrendered just nine goals, and with sophomore Lindsey Heckel (11 goals, five assists) and senior Gabby Smith (10 goals, six assists), a Butler recruit, fueling the offense, Haddock shares Lanter's optimism about possible postseason success.

"This year, (Lanter) is a pure center back," Haddock said. "She works well with Margaret. They're both tall (5-foot-11), they're both physical, they're both great leaders. Her and Margaret have a unique bond as friends and with that connection on the field where they can give each other a look and know what the other one's doing."

Lanter, the daughter of Jeff and Marcy Lanter, has three goals and one assist. Haddock employs her in the attack on restarts, capitalizing on her height.

"She's not a kid who's going to have all the glory and all the stats and all the assists," said Haddock, also the boys soccer coach at Vianney. "But the goals she scores are some of the most critical of the game, off a restart, off a corner kick or a long dead ball. A lot of those goals she scores are in tight games, either 0-0 or 1-1 games, that put us ahead."

Lanter said she tries to "be a little sneaky" when she pushes into the offense from the back door. It would seem difficult for a 5-11 player to be sneaky, but Lanter pulls it off.

"Especially since I'm tall, head balls come easy," she said. "(Restarts) are how I've scored my goals this year. I usually make a run in the middle."

But Lanter doesn't ever lose sight of her main mission.

"My goal is to mark people," Lanter said. "My coach always says I have to help people not get into one-v.-one battles and to just keep (the ball) out of the back. My other center back, Margaret, helps clean it up and also helps on one-v.-one battles.

"My team helps me all the time. I definitely can't do it without them. I can't take any credit."

No worries. Haddock offers plenty of that, calling Lanter "one of the most athletic kids I've ever seen and have ever coached," in addition to being "a very smart player."

"Tierney is that glue, not just a top-level senior, but for that new freshman we have who doesn't know what high school soccer is all about," he said. "To have a kid like Tierney to be that springboard for those young girls who might be a little shy, a little bashful ... Tierney's at your side. She's the calming presence.

"While she's calm with her inner actions with the players as a leader, she's anything but that on the field. She's fierce, she's tough, she wins every 50-50 ball on the (basketball) court and on the field. She has that unique ability to turn it on when the going gets tough physically, but understands her role as a leader for the freshmen and sophomores on our team."

Haddock works at Vianney during the day, but knows the team won't unravel even when he's not around.

"The value I'm going to remember (Lanter) by is that leadership, that stuff she does when the coaches aren't around to gather the troops, the offseason runs, the player-only meetings when the coach isn't at school," Haddock said. "That sort of stuff goes unnoticed, but in my opinion as the head coach, that's what sets her apart."

Adapting to Nerinx

Nerinx Hall is a Catholic, all-girls school established in 1924. It has a wide range of extracurricular programs, including 13 sports. Lanter also plays basketball, but will continue to play soccer for four years at Division III Emory University in Atlanta.

"Our goal at Nerinx Hall is to create empowered women," Lanter said. "One of our school's philosophies is for women to know themselves and their world. Our school knows, to do that, we have to get involved in as many things as possible. The administration encourages that; your other classmates encourage that."

Lanter attended St. Clare Catholic Grade School in O'Fallon and was looking forward to her experience at Nerinx Hall as her high school years approached. Two older brothers, Patrick and Blake, graduated from St. Louis University High, an all-boys school.

"(Patrick) said it was like going to school in a fraternity," Lanter said of a conversation they shared a few years ago. "I thought it would be so cool to go to school with a bunch of your sisters. Seeing him do that, I kind of knew I was going to St. Louis. My parents supported me fully and my classmates from Illinois were like, 'That's awesome.' So I always just wanted to be in that same-gendered environment."

Lanter has a bounty of friends in Illinois, including teammates on her St. Louis Scott Gallagher club team.

"Whenever I see (my Illinois friends), I get really excited because it's home," Lanter said. "I love home because I spend most of my time away from it. I'm so grateful I got my background here and my strong morals here. It all started in Belleville."

At first, Lanter recalled, it felt a bit strange being at Nerinx Hall.

"Freshman year was interesting, partly because I didn't know anyone; I didn't know any of the girls," she said. "We all were coming from different backgrounds, so that was interesting. I wouldn't say it was too odd, though."

Lanter then laughed and said: "I'm kind of more scared for college since I have to spend my next life with boys in my classrooms."

Hoops, too

Lanter's bloodlines drew her into basketball.

Jeff Lanter graduated from Belleville East High School and played under coach Harry Statham at then-McKendree College in the 1980s. He is in the school's Athletics Hall of Fame.

Steve Lanter, Jeff's older brother and Tierney's uncle, graduated from Mascoutah High School and played basketball at the University of Illinois from 1976-79 before suffering an injury and completing his degree at McKendree.

"My dad helped me train for basketball all the time," Tierney Lanter said. "It's in my blood to play basketball. But soccer is my main thing. I think it's because of all the camaraderie I've had with my Scott Gallagher teammates and with my Nerinx Hall teammates."

Lanter, also a defensive stopper in basketball, averaged 5.6 points and 5.7 rebounds as a senior, 5.8 points and 7.8 rebounds as a junior, 4.5 points and 5.4 rebounds as a sophomore and 3.4 points and 3.7 rebounds as a freshman. She played in 102 career games.

Haddock has enjoyed watching Lanter grow up at Nerinx Hall.

"When you fast-forward four years down the road and see the friendships she's made ... maybe it's a life lesson and something that's good," he said.

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665; @DavidMWilhelm
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