Bridget Orchard is entering her 17th season at the helm of the Fordham softball program, one in which the former Villanova star has helped completely turn around during her tenure, molding it into a perennial Atlantic 10 contender and NCAA Regional regular. Orchard was hired in May of 2001 and, after one losing season, has racked up 15 consecutive seasons with at least 32 victories, all but one of which are up to 35 or more. Before Orchard, the program had never had a winning season, dating back to 1985, and only one season at .500. The program, over its first 17 seasons, had just a .294 winning percentage and 178 total wins. After the 2017 campaign, those numbers are up to .496 and 769, respectively.
Orchard owns a 591-355-1 overall record in the Bronx and a 720-397-3 record as a 20-year head coach, serving as the head of Cabrini for four years. She has been named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year seven times and has seen her staff earn NFCA Staff of the Year recognition twice.
Overall in Orchard's tenure at Fordham, the Rams have had one All-American (Jen Mineau - 2010, 2011), five Atlantic 10 Player of Year honorees (2005, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2016), three Pitcher of the Year selections (2005, 2014, 2017), six Atlantic 10 Rookies of the Year (2003-05, 2007, 2010, and 2016), five Academic All-Americans (Erin Brooks - 2003-04, Mary Beth Puccio - 2008, Jen Mineau 2011, Michele Daubman - 2015), two Atlantic 10 Student-Athlete of the Year (Puccio - 2009, Mineau - 2010), 76 All-Atlantic 10 selections, 47 NFCA All-Mid-Atlantic Region picks, 13 ECAC All-Stars, two ECAC Players of the Year, one ECAC Rookie of the Year and 23 Academic All-Conference awards.
The 2017 season brought a fifth straight Atlantic 10 championship and sixth in the last seven years, plus its second straight regular season title and third in the last four seasons. The Rams, like in 2016, took it to a do-or-die championship game two but Fordham prevailed and were sent to the Salt Lake City regional to play the nationally-ranked Utes and BYU Cougars, plus Mississippi State. Fordham fell to the ranked schools but defeated the Bulldogs handedly in between. Last spring’s campaign also brought the second-most wins in a single season in school history, 46, and its second-best winning percentage, as well, at .730, and upwards of 10 votes in the NFCA/USA Today National Coaches poll on two occasions. All six seniors, plus assistant coach Reese Mariconda, finished with a ring each of the past four seasons.
The Rams matched its 2016 tally of a program-record 18 conference victories and saw a record-tying five First Team All-Conference selections, plus one Second Team honoree, and three All-Rookie nods. The team also nabbed a record six NFCA All-Region selections and tied 2010 with four ECAC All-Stars, and set a new record with three CoSIDA Academic All-District honorees. Unsurprisingly, the 2017 season and its’ haul of hardware was the result of 17 school records being tied or broken, both at the team and individual levels. Perhaps most impressively, was the team’s ability to walk more (269) than strike out (262).
Coach Orchard won her 700th overall game during a 7-0 win over Saint Joseph’s at home on April 2.
In 2016, the Rams finished 39-21, won the regular season title, set a record with 13 end-of-season accolades in conference, and traveled to the Eugene NCAA regional, where they fell to the fifth-ranked Ducks and Long Beach State. Fordham lost their first contest of the A-10 Championship and, due to weather, had to play its next four games over two days, including three on Championship Sunday.
2015 brought the Rams’ their second-ever NCAA Regional final appearance, before falling to North Carolina State, 2-1, at the Harrisonburg Regional in Harrisonburg, Va. The Rams won two elimination games to grab a rematch with the Wolfpack and knocked off top-seeded and nationally-ranked James Madison on its home turf in the process.
After winning 14 games in her first season, in 2002, Orchard was named Atlantic 10 Softball Coach of the Year the follow year after guiding Fordham to what was then its finest season in team history, recording a school record 37 wins and the Rams' first-ever appearance in the Atlantic 10 Softball Championship. At the time, she was the third Fordham head coach to receive the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year honors. The 2003 Rams also made the NCAA record book, as the team had a 23 ½ game improvement from the 2002 season, the 7th best turnaround in NCAA history.
After another 30-win season in 2004, Orchard led the Rams to their first Atlantic 10 Championship game in 2005, and had a number of players garner major honors. Fordham swept the major Atlantic 10 Awards with Katie Davis earning Player of the Year honors, Sara Kinney garnering the Pitcher of the Year, and having Laura Klaiber selected as Rookie of the Year, while Orchard captured her second Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year Award in three seasons. She also received her first "Iron Major" Award as Fordham Coach of the Year after the team set new records with 38 overall wins and 15 conference wins. The Rams also had three All-Conference players, three All-Region selections, two Academic All-Atlantic 10 picks, and two All-Atlantic 10 Championship players.
Following that season, a team record nine players earned All-Conference honors in 2006. The Rams also made their second straight Atlantic 10 Championship game appearance in 2006 while recording 37 wins, which tied for the second most in team history.
In 2007, the Rams had five All-Conference players, four All-Mid-Atlantic Region picks, and the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year for the fourth time in Orchard's tenure. Orchard also reached a personal milestone in 2007, recording her 200th win at Fordham, which came against Saint Louis at the Atlantic 10 Championship tournament.
2008 marked the sixth consecutive winning season for Orchard at Fordham as they team finished with a 36-30 record. The Rams advanced to the A-10 Championship and pulled off an exciting, extra-innings victory over St. Bonaventure before being eliminated by Charlotte.
The following year saw the Rams post their third best winning percentage up to that point as the team compiled a 37-22 record (.627). Fordham advanced to the A-10 Championship once again and even pulled off an upset of then #24 Massachusetts during the regular season.
2010 was a season for the ages for Coach Orchard. The team set new high-water marks in wins (49), earned votes in a top 25 poll, garnered the school's first-ever at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament and had two NCAA Regional wins. The team closed the regular season with a 21 game winning streak and set 44 new school records. 2010's team posted an overall record of 49-12, which translated to an .803 winning percentage. The .803 mark set a new school record, surpassing the 2007 team which posted a .661 winning percentage after a 39-20 overall record.
2011 saw the Rams get over the hump and capture the school's first-ever Atlantic 10 title. Orchard was named Coach of the Year in the conference and the entire staff was chosen as the Staff of the Year by the NFCA. The team won 42 games, and defeated Penn State in the NCAA Regional.
After a one year absence from the NCAA Tournament, the Rams made their way back to the promised land in 2013, claiming the program's second A-10 title and securing a spot in the Norman, Okla., Regional.
In 2014, the Rams made in two consecutive Atlantic 10 titles and three out of the last four, as Orchard earned her fifth Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year honor.
Prior to Fordham, Orchard spent four seasons as the head coach at Cabrini College in Radnor, Pennsylvania.
As head coach at Cabrini, Orchard posted a 129-42-2 career record, leading the squad to two straight NCAA Division III Tournament bids. In 2001, Cabrini was a finalist in the NCAA East Regional, and the squad was an NCAA Atlantic Regional finalist in 2000. Cabrini won three straight Pennsylvania Athletic Conference regular season championship titles under Orchard, and in 2001 the Cavaliers were ranked 10th in the nation by USA Today.
In 2001 under Orchard, the Cavaliers led the NCAA Division III in hitting, pitching, and fielding. The squad took third place at the NFCA Leadoff Classic among the top 25 teams in the nation, and also won both the Cortlandt/Ithaca and Salisbury State Tournaments. Cabrini posted a 42-5 overall record and a 21-1 conference tally in 2001. Four of Orchard's players were named Division III All-Americans in 2001. Orchard was named the Division III East Regional Coach of the Year in 2001, and she was one of eight Division III National Coach of the Year candidates. A three-time PAC Coach of the Year, she was selected to coach the USA Athletes International Team in Germany in 2000.
Orchard took over the Cabrini squad in 1998 and built the Cavaliers into a national powerhouse in just four seasons. In her first season, Cabrini posted a 22-12-1 overall record, and improved to 26-14-1 the following season. In 2000 the Cavaliers went 39-9, and her 42-5 record in 2001 marks the most productive season in the school's history.
In Orchard's four seasons, Cabrini has compiled a conference record of 85-9. Orchard's squads have also excelled off the field, as indicated by Cabrini's being ranked the fourth-highest academic team in the country by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association in 1999. In 2013, she was inducted into the Cabrini College Athletic Hall of Fame for her coaching tenure.
A four-year standout at Villanova University from 1994-97, Orchard still holds three Wildcat records, and led Villanova to the ECAC Championship title in 1996. Named to the First Team All-Big East, she was also a three-time All-Big East Academic Team member, and was ranked second among the toughest players in the nation to strike out.