Nov. 20, 2008

By Amy Farnum Novin
NCAA Staff

Ange Bradley came to Syracuse University with a dream of winning a women’s field hockey national championship, and just two short years later she has guided the Orange within reach of that goal.

Syracuse advanced to the NCAA Division I semifinals with an overtime victory over Princeton on Nov. 16 -- the first time the program has ever advanced this far in the national tournament – and Bradley’s squad is not done yet.

“Our ultimate goal is to win a national championship,” said Bradley.  “When (Syracuse Athletics Director) Daryl Gross hired me and talked to me, he said come win a national championship with me and I said okay.  That’s always been a dream.  I wanted to do it as an athlete, and was not able to achieve it.”

Before taking the helm at Syracuse, Bradley spent five seasons at the University of Richmond, leading the Spiders to a perfect conference record, five league titles and five NCAA appearances.  Prior to Richmond, the former Delaware goalkeeper served as an assistant coach at Maryland and Iowa – both perennial powers and NCAA semifinalists this season – and was a part of the Terrapins’ national title run in 1999.

“We knew that she had a lot of success in her prior coaching job, but we didn’t know exactly what to expect because we had never played against her,” said senior goalkeeper Heather Hess.  “She had a winning attitude and presented that to us and got us really motivated and focused on the things we needed to do to improve our program.  We got a good vibe from her when she first got here.”

Bradley knew what it took to grab the brass ring, but when she got to Syracuse, her team needed some help getting to that point.  The first order of business was getting the players on board, and having them make a commitment to the program.  The second goal was to get fit.

“They were not Division I athletes – they thought they were, but didn’t know what it would take to go to the next level,” said Bradley.  “We trained and pushed and worked really hard in the spring.  We pushed them to the level of a top 10 program knowing that we weren’t quite there yet.  We were always pushing them to get there.”

In 2007, Bradley’s first season with the Orange, the team posted a 12-7 record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001.   But Bradley was just getting started.  This season, SU has turned in a program-record 22-1 mark, capturing its first BIG EAST Championship since 2001.  

“When she came in she put the idea in our heads that we can go to the NCAA Tournament and make the final four, but it’s up to you how bad you want it,” said Hess.  “She’s been a great motivator for the whole team.  Our team is very hard-working.  We’ve been working since May for this.  Everyone has it in their minds that this is what we’re going to do.  We’re finally seeing that our work has paid off.”

The Orange has outscored foes 114-22, while leading the nation in scoring with 4.96 goals per game.  Syracuse is also defensively-minded as the team ranks second in the nation with a 0.95 goals against average.

“It’s a mentality and way of being,” said Bradley. “It’s the mentality of ‘go, go, go, push it.’  Don’t just win the game, but win by five.  If you’re going to fail, fail big.  If you’re going to succeed, succeed big.  Don’t just be satisfied with getting by.”

Senior forward Shannon Taylor paces the nation in goals (1.35) and points (3.43) per game, while freshman midfielder Martina Loncarica leads Division I with 1.35 assists per game, but Bradley credits the team-oriented atmosphere for their individual successes.

“As a team, we have a huge spirit and a huge heart,” said Bradley.  “Our team is our star.  We do not really have any standout individual players or national team players.  We are hard-working and everyone does their job and takes a tremendous amount of pride in that.”

Syracuse will face Wake Forest on Friday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m.  The University of Louisville is hosting the championship at Trager Stadium.  Maryland and Iowa will play in the first semifinal at 5:30 p.m.  The winners will meet on Nov. 23 at 1 p.m.