Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/11/13
From Press Release
When a high school athlete begins the process of searching for a college of their choosing, most of them have a dream of playing at their favorite college or university, no matter what it takes.
That is exactly what Victoria Brady was going through her senior year of high school.
Brady, who played women’s lacrosse at North Penn and was part of the U15 National Team, grew up loving the game and she too had a dream of playing lacrosse at the Division I level. After a strong showing during her senior year of high school, Brady was recruited by several college coaches from the likes of Cal Berkley, St. Joseph’s, La Salle, and Franklin & Marshall.
Brady visited most of the campuses and verbally committed to St. Joseph’s to play lacrosse there. However, life had another plan; two weeks prior to the start of her freshman year, a family crisis hit Brady’s family and she knew that with a partial scholarship at St. Joe’s, it would be too much of burden on her family and she did not want to bear that responsibility on her parents.
Brady anxiously looked around at the local colleges nearby and reached out to a familiar face that she had always trusted over the years, former Penn State Abington women’s lacrosse head coach Debra Andress. After several conversations with Andress, Brady knew she wanted to enroll at Penn State Abington and play lacrosse.
“Deb helped me a lot as she was my coach for the U15 National Team,” said Brady regarding Andress. “I talked to her a lot through the process of applying to colleges, because I originally committed with St. Joe’s for lacrosse, but that didn’t work out. So I knew I wanted to come to Abington and perhaps have an opportunity to play lacrosse.”
Penn State Abington is a commonwealth campus of the Penn State University and is located in the suburbs 15 miles north of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Abington offers 14 varsity teams, including women’s lacrosse, and is a full member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III and participates in the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) and the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC).
While it wasn’t exactly a Division I caliber program, Brady knew that Abington would be the perfect fit for her, especially with the transition from high school to college.
“I knew that Abington would work out because I was going from being committed to a big (college) to a smaller college, and I would be closer to my family,” said Brady.
As Brady began fall classes during her first semester at Penn State Abington, she was enjoying the camaraderie, the atmosphere and the size of the campus.
“The main thing that helped me was the smaller aspect of it, and being able to have those smaller one-on-one classes instead of jumping from high school to a major college with 300 people per class and just becoming so lost,” she said. “At Abington, I felt connected with my professors and with my peers, and that really helped me with the transition from high school to college.”
However, she felt that she was missing something with her college experience; she missed the game and had a strong desire to play lacrosse at Abington.
“To me, nursing is always going to be my career. That’s going to be my life and that’s what I have a lot of passion in. But I also have a passion for the game of lacrosse,” explained Brady. “Abington gave me the opportunity to do both, being able to be involved with nursing and play lacrosse all at once. It’s a once in a lifetime chance, and after college I may never have the opportunity again.”
After talking with Andress about playing at Abington, Brady knew that the women’s lacrosse program was struggling to thrive. She knew she could not only help Andress grow the program with her talent, but share the passion for the game with her peers as well.
“I knew Deb (Andress) was trying to build up the team and luckily, we were able to recruit a lot of new girls on campus to start playing, even some who have never picked up a lacrosse stick before,” said Brady. “It was a really unique experience playing at Abington. To share that passion for lacrosse and teaching the new girls a new sport, later to fall in love with the game as I did, it was fun for me.”
Brady didn’t just teach the game of lacrosse, the game also taught her more about herself as a player and as an individual. She came to fully understand what the true meaning of the term ‘student-athlete’ really meant.
“Taking my experiences and skills and the things that I knew growing up to help the team grow as beginning players was amazing,” said Brady. “And I learned a lot of leadership from Deb that year and, being one of the more experienced players on the team, it was helpful to be a role model and lead them and still have fun myself.”
Brady had to learn a new system at Abington under Andress. Throughout her high school years, Brady had a strong awareness as a defender. Andress knew that, however she had another purpose for Brady, utilizing her speed and quickness on the draw to lead the offensive squad at midfield.
“I’m usually a defender, but I got to play a lot more offense last year and I learned and grew a lot,” said Brady on the position switch. “I learned a lot more offensive skills and became a more well-rounded player.”
Her experiences truly paid off during the 2012 season at Penn State Abington. Brady helped her team grow throughout the season, contributing 21 goals, two assists, and winning 29 draw controls. The Nittany Lions won four conference games and miraculously qualified for the North Eastern Athletic Conference playoffs for the first time in program history.
Brady wasn’t just an athlete, she also excelled as a student at Abington. She was later named NEAC Scholar Athlete for the 2011-12 academic year and was honored with the Penn State University President’s Award, which is given to a first year student university wide that attained at 4.0 GPA.
After the first year at Abington, Brady felt a sense of accomplishment and transferred up to University Park, the main campus of the Penn State system, to pursue her nursing career. However, she felt something was still missing; she still had that desire to play lacrosse.
That following fall, Brady tried out for the women’s lacrosse club team at the main campus where she knew some of the players from her youth years. Despite the enjoyment and the time with the club team, she knew it wasn’t good enough. She still wanted to fulfill her dream, the experience of playing Division I athletics.
“I loved that I was playing club lacrosse, the flexibility with my schedule and being able to compete and enjoy the fun-loving aspect of the game, but there was still that part of me that wanted the hard practices and the intense workouts, like someone pushing me, the excitement of rigorous playing time.”
After hearing about the possibility of trying out during fall ball with the women’s varsity lacrosse team, Brady was anxious at first. She called her family and Andress for support on what to do.
“At first, when I tried out for the team, not even thinking that I would make it,” she said. “I just wanted to try out for the experience, to see the girls, the level of play, to see where I would fit in and just compare myself to that level of play. It was so nerve wracking at first, but Deb and my family were just saying ‘Why not, there’s nothing to lose, just go for it, and I did.’”
Brady jumped in on the first day of practice nervous: “I came out onto the field and all the players had their same uniforms on just for practice and I was like ‘Oh, my gosh’, but after I started playing with them during the first tryout, I felt so comfortable because I didn’t have anything to lose.”
Head coach Missy Doherty watched Brady very closely during tryouts and liked what she saw in her. After all it’s not very often that a player who just recently played Division III athletics will have a chance to try out for a Division I athletic program.
“Brady has great potential. She’s a versatile athlete, a hard worker and she fits in well with the team,” said Doherty. “It doesn’t happen very often to see a player jump from Division III to Division I, but everyone’s path is different.
“It is quite uncommon, however with Victoria, she is a unique athlete and every athlete brings something to the team. She brings that emotion and hard work ethic and pushes other players to become better, and that’s what I look for in a player.”
Brady became more confident and played her hardest during the three-day tryout period, and she felt relieved for being given the opportunity to play.
“I was very happy with the experience and that I got to tryout and know in my heart that I can play with these girls, and regardless of the outcome, whether I make the team or not, it was the experience that mattered, that in my mind I can tell myself that ‘okay, I did it, I tried out.’” she said.
Shortly after tryouts concluded, Brady received a call from Doherty for a meeting.
“I knew it was about the tryouts and to be honest, at first I didn’t expect to make the team, but I knew that regardless of what happened, I was proud for getting a once in a lifetime shot,” said Brady. “It’s not always you’re given an opportunity to play, to achieve your dream, even if it’s just tryouts. I can look back and say I gave it my all and not have regrets.”
Doherty informed her of decision and added Brady to the team. “After I told Brady of my decision to provide her an opportunity to play and have her on the team, she was ecstatic.”
Like every person’s response to good news, Brady was jubilant about making the cut and her hard work paying off. She had reached her dream of playing Division I athletics.
“I was shocked! I couldn’t believe it that I made the team! ,” Brady said in response to the decision. “I was given a tour of the locker room and I saw my nameplate above my locker and I realized that I finally made my dream. I was just ecstatic.”
Shortly after the meeting, Brady could barely contain her excitement and called her family, who was more proud than ever. “My brother and sisters were also excited. My brother, who also plays club lacrosse at Penn State, was always yelling at me when I wasn’t going to try out.”
Brady then called her former coach and mentor, Deb Andress, and shared the news.
“I got a phone call from Tori and she was just crying and laughing hysterically and she just shouted ‘Coach, I made the team! I made it!,’” said Andress. “I knew she could do it and I knew she could push herself hard because she does have the skills as a player to make the team.”
Brady credits her Division III student-athlete experience at Penn State Abington as a plus with the transition to Division I athletics. It helped her learn to balance her time wisely between intensive nursing class schedules and lacrosse practices.
“Being a Division III student-athlete, I had to go to classes early in the morning, stay until five or six for practice, work out afterwards, and then travel back home and do it all over again the next day.” she said.
And the transition to Division I?
“With Division I athletics, it is more demanding, but Penn State University and its athletic department are very helpful with providing the resources that I need, like tutors, study hall, psychologists and administrators to help with the scheduling of classes that I need to fit around practices,” she said. “That all comes as a reward of working your way to that level.”
Brady went on to add that she even had a nursing class that overlapped with a practice schedule during the week and feared that the head coach would be upset. However, she was surprised that the coaching staff were all very supportive and understanding and accommodated the players’ class schedules.
“We want all of our players to major in something that they’re passionate about and I’m very excited to see how she can make it work,” said Doherty. “I know Victoria can make it work with both the nursing program and playing lacrosse.”
While Brady begins a new chapter in her life at the main campus of Penn State University, she agrees that the experience at Penn State Abington was a key turning point in her college life.
“I wouldn’t change anything about my time at Abington. I think that everything that happened, the good, the bad, and the challenges, were the reason that I was able to decide what I wanted to do this year at main campus,” she said. “Being at Abington at first, I was like, ‘I want to be at main campus right away, I don’t want to start small,’ but looking back at it, Abington was the best thing that happened to me.”
“The small-to-large transition really helped, the friends I made here on campus and on the team are my best friends and they just come up and visit or I come home and see them on the weekends.”
For someone who had a dream to play Division I lacrosse, she once gave up that dream to pursue her passion for nursing. That all changed once she transferred to Penn State University. She intended to pursue that nursing dream. Unbeknownst to her, Brady also caught her other dream that she once gave up on, playing Division I lacrosse, back as well.
“It’s still unreal to me, going to practice dressed in all our Penn State gear, being on the field,” she said. “You can see Beaver Stadium all around you and I just feel so blessed and lucky to be there.
“I carry that with me all the time, even when I’m going to class wearing my Penn State jacket, I feel so much pride because I didn’t get there based on being recruited or being seen, I walked on and made the team myself through hard work.”
When asked what experiences impacted her most during her time at Abington and if she could change one thing about Abington, Brady stated, “Deb has been a huge inspiration in my life and I’m so glad I got to play for her for a year, it was such an amazing experience. My best friend was a teammate of mine. I taught her how to play at Abington last year and she still plays now. I wouldn’t change anything about Abington. It was a tight knit family there and I still keep in touch with everyone there.”
Victoria Brady and the No. 9 Penn State women’s lacrosse team are currently training for the upcoming 2013 season, as the Nittany Lions will look to build off a successful 2012 campaign that saw the program earn its most wins since 2005 and third straight double-digit win season.