Prep girls basketball: Hard work paying off for Tieryn Plasch, Northwestern
The Tigers’ all-time leading scorer has already started giving back to the program by coaching the seventh-grade travel team.
MAPLE — This basketball story doesn’t start in a gym with snow piled outside, it starts in the heat of the summer and Northwestern's Tieryn Plasch pushing her friends and teammates to practice.
Last summer, Plasch and several teammates — including seniors Gabby Risley, Madison Bobula and Alison Raboin and sophomores Abby Johnson and Shayna Wick — spent much of their summer in a church gym or anywhere they could for player-led or perhaps Plasch-led practices.
“We’d work on things that I personally thought we need to work on,” Plasch said. “I’d make them run or do certain reads and I would just work on my passes to them. I feel like our team chemistry improved because of that and as a team we’re super, super close.”
Johnson said the workouts weren’t the intensity of a normal practice, but the benefits are clear for the 11-5 Tigers.
“We were able to get into a church, work on some passing and get some shots up,” Johnson said. “We would also lift together and it’s really improved because she’s able to read you without actually having to clap or yell for the ball. It’s easier to lose the defense’s track because you can just cut and she knows where you are without you having to say anything.”
Plasch, the 2021 Superior Telegram All-Area Player of the Year, is the Tigers’ all-time leading scorer and has been a 3-year captain for coach Paul Eberhardt.
“I coached college for 15-plus years,” Eberhardt, a former Wisconsin-Superior men’s basketball coach, said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever coached someone who puts more time in and works hard than Tieryn does. You literally can’t keep her out of the gym. If she’s banged up or she’s been doing too much, I’ll try to get her to take Sunday off from shooting, but she will figure out a way to sneak in somewhere and get some shots up or something — that’s just her mentality.”
The work from the summer is definitely paying off. While she is averaging 21 points a game this season — one off her average from last year — Plasch is averaging 5.8 assists, an improvement of more than one a game.
Tuesday, the Tigers routed Spooner 75-31 but instead of Plasch putting up 25 or 30 of those points, she and Risley each had 14, while Wick had 12 and Johnson had eight.
“In all honestly, for us to do as well as we did last year, but if she doesn’t go for 20-25 every night, we’re not winning,” Eberhardt said. “We have more weapons than we had last year and now we have someone like Abby Johnson — who runs like a deer — and I tell her, ‘Run the floor, Tieryn will find you, just run the floor.’ I mean, she would rather have 10 assists than 20 points.”
The trust and rapport she built with her teammates over the summer isn’t just Plasch distributing the ball to her teammates — it’s a two-way street.
“When she hands us the ball, she puts trust in us to find her as well,” Risley said. “She looks to her teammates more to create for her rather than just having to create for herself.”
It isn’t just hard work that’s turned Plasch into a fantastic player, it’s her ability to connect with and, ultimately, lead her teammates.
“Not only is she the hardest worker, she’s probably the best natural leader I’ve ever coached,” Eberhardt said. “She will literally drag her teammates to the gym…They’ve all been together forever and so they go to the gym because that’s where they hang out.”
Plasch has high expectations for her teammates, but she also expects them to have the same expectations of her, and to let her know if she’s not meeting them.
“The whole team is basically a captain and we all need to hold each other accountable,” Plasch said. “A lot of the time, I’m holding everyone accountable, but not many people hold me accountable. They think like ‘Captain — scary,’ so I told them, ‘You need to yell at me if I’m doing something dumb.’”
A couple years ago, Plasch made the choice to concentrate on basketball instead of playing multiple sports.
“There’s also a trade-off,” Eberhardt said. “She spends a lot of time away from friends and other things because she’s in the gym a lot. She’s put in more time than anyone I know and that’s why, skill-wise — if she was a little taller — she’s a D-I player. But she doesn’t fit the makeup as a D-I player because she’s not quite big enough.”
While she might not be an NCAA Division I player, Plasch recently committed to play for Division II Bemidji State next season where she said she hopes to study exercise science or education and minor in coaching.
Plasch is already getting going on her coaching career. Last year, she started coaching a travel team with the Northwestern youth program.
“As a coach, it’s like what more could you ask for,” Eberhardt said. “She’s someone who is passionate and wants to teach younger kids how to play, someone who’s willing to drag her teammates to the gym. She’s a 4.0 student and it sounds like she’s going to get into coaching. I told her ‘When you’re a Division I coach and I’m old and retired, I’ll come work for you.’ I’m happy to be her assistant because that’s her future trajectory.”