Bridget Orchard embarks on her first season as head coach during the 2019 season. She returns to her alma mater after 17 successful seasons at Fordham.
There, she built the Rams into a perennial power in the Atlantic 10 Conference while taking her teams to eight NCAA Championships and earning seven Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year awards. Her teams were equally successful academically and Orchard will now have the opportunity to continue her coaching career back on the Main Line. She was a first team All-BIG EAST selection and a BIG EAST All-Academic Team member while playing for Villanova from 1994-97. Orchard is a 1997 graduate of the university with a degree in Communication Arts and also holds a Master’s of Education from Temple in 2001.
“I am beyond excited to be taking over as the head softball coach at Villanova University,” Orchard said. “I want to thank University President Father Peter Donohue, Athletic Director Mark Jackson and his staff for trusting in me to lead this program. After talking with Mark, I knew that coming home to Villanova is what I needed to do. We share the same vision of where this program can go, and winning championships is what we plan to do.
“I want to thank my husband and kids for supporting and encouraging me. We are thrilled to be back home as part of Nova Nation. I have always been a Wildcat and grateful for all that Coach Maria DiBernardi has done for this University, softball program and for me personally. She has always been more than just a coach to me and I can’t wait to make her proud as I continue to work hard for this program. I want to thank Fordham University and my softball family for giving me the greatest memories for the last 17 years. I will miss everyone that I worked so closely with and especially the past and present players. They are what got me where I am and I am forever grateful. Fordham will always have a special place in my heart.”
In all, the numbers for Orchard during her time at Fordham are staggering. She won 624 games in 17 seasons and led a coaching staff which earned two NFCA Mid-Atlantic Region Staff of the Year awards. Orchard coached one All-American and saw her student-athletes be named the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year (five times), Pitcher of the Year (three times) and Rookie of the Year (seven times). Fordham also produced five Academic All-Americans, 25 Academic All-Conference honorees and two Atlantic 10 Student-Athletes of the Year while totaling 82 All-Atlantic 10 selections, 48 NFCA Mid-Atlantic All-Region picks and 13 ECAC All-Stars under Orchard’s watch.
Orchard closed her career with the Rams by winning six consecutive Atlantic 10 titles and seven in the last eight seasons. Her 2018 squad won 33 games, went 18-4 in regular season league action and then won three more contests by a combined 18-5 margin in the conference tournament. Orchard comes to the Wildcats with a career record of 753-420-3 (.642) in 21 years as a head coach. She was 624-378-1 (.623) at Fordham, and previously won 129 games over four seasons at nearby Cabrini in her first head coaching stint.
When Orchard was hired at Fordham in May 2001, she inherited a program that had never previously posted a winning season dating back to 1985. After the Rams won just 178 total games in their first 17 varsity seasons, Orchard increased the program’s victory total to over 800 wins in the next 17 years. Her teams won at least 32 games in each of the last 16 years. Her 2018 team featured Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year Paige Rauch, and Fordham earned a total of nine postseason awards thanks to three first team All-Atlantic 10 honorees, two second members, Rauch on the All-Rookie team and a pair of student-athletes on the academic all-conference squad.
Two seasons in particular during Orchard’s time with the Rams stick out above the rest and are indicative of the breadth of success she achieved. Her 2010 team set a school record with 49 wins, earned votes in one of the national top 25 polls and earned the program’s first-ever at-large NCAA Championship selection. Fordham closed the regular season on a 21-game winning streak and then defended its at-large berth with a pair of NCAA Regional victories. In all, the Rams set 44 school records in 2010 and finished the year 49-12 overall.
Orchard’s 2017 team also made a splash nationally, earning upwards of 10 votes in the NFCA/USA Today National Coaches poll on two occasions. Fordham won 46 games to trail only the 2010 squad, and the Rams won their second straight regular season Atlantic 10 title and third in the past four years. Her senior class concluded their careers with conference rings from all four of their seasons in the Bronx.
The team’s overall success was the result of the coaching staff being able to develop star student-athletes both on and off the field. Jen Mineau was a two-time All-American in 2010 and 2011, became one of four student-athletes under Orchard to earn Academic All-America honors and also was the 2010 Atlantic 10 Student-Athlete of the Year. Erin Brooks was the first Academic All-American for Orchard, a distinction she earned in both 2003 and 2004. Mary Beth Puccio followed in 2008, while Mineau (2011) and Michele Daubman also reached that distinction.
Orchard was a standout infielder for Villanova from 1994-97 and at the time of her graduation was the school record holder with 216 career hits and 110 runs scored. She earned first team All-BIG EAST honors in 1995 and led the Wildcats to an ECAC title a year later while ranking as the second-toughest batter to strike out in the nation. Villanova won 113 games during Orchard’s playing career, including a total of 35 BIG EAST victories, and reached the BIG EAST Championship three times.
After the conclusion of her collegiate career Orchard was nearly immediately appointed the head coach at Cabrini, where she would proceed to go 129-42-2 over the next four seasons. She led the Cavaliers to two straight NCAA Tournament bids, and her teams were an NCAA East Regional finalist in 2001 as well as previously being an NCAA Atlantic Regional finalist in 2000. Cabrini won three straight Pennsylvania Athletic Conference regular season titles under Orchard, and the team was ranked No. 10 in the nation by USA Today in 2001.
During her final season at Cabrini in 2001, the Cavaliers led Division III in hitting, pitching and fielding. Cabrini finished third at the NFCA Leadoff Classic and also won both the Cortland/Ithaca and Salisbury State tournaments. Orchard guided the Cavaliers to a 42-5 overall record and a 21-1 conference tally in 2001, and was named the Division III East Regional Coach of the Year. She was also a three-time PAC Coach of the Year at Cabrini, and was selected to coach the USA Athletes International Team in Germany in 2000.
In addition to her coaching responsibilities at Cabrini, Orchard was also the school’s Director of Student Activities from 1999-01. She was inducted into the Cabrini College Athletic Hall of Fame for her coaching accomplishments in 2013.
Returning to Villanova is a homecoming in more ways than one for Orchard, as both she and her husband Jay are Wildcats alums. The couple has two sons – Luke and Zachary – and a daughter, Isabelle.