BRIDGEWATER, Va. – With the final seconds ticking off the clock in the 1-0 loss to Virginia Wesleyan in the ODAC semifinals, Bridgewater senior forward Bailey Kratz thought her playing career was over.
"Yeah, I thought that was it," Kratz said. "I had this little moment with my dad after the game. I was ready to move on and get ready for the real world."
Well, the "real world" was put on hold for a few days when Kratz and her teammates were selected as an at-large team for the NCAA Division III women's soccer tournament.
"I was in shock for a while. I couldn't believe we got in," Kratz said after the team's final training session before boarding the bus Wednesday for its trip to Westerville, Ohio for the program's first-ever NCAA appearance. "It wasn't until I got back out to practice and I thought OK, let's go. We can do this."
Kratz was one of just one of two seniors returning for the 2018 season after the Eagles suffered a tough 1-0 overtime loss to Lynchburg in 2017 ODAC Championship Game. Last year, the Eagles were bypassed for a spot in the national tournament.
The Eagles lost seven seniors from the 2017 team and the team lost six players who had earned All-ODAC honors at some point in their careers.
"I think a lot of people thought this would be a rebuilding year," Kratz said. "But we had good players returning and I knew Coach (Mike Van Horn) would bring in a good group of freshmen. We worked hard over the summer to come back in good playing shape to start the season. I guess my biggest concern was goalkeeper. We lost Hayley (Talbott) and Hayley was a great keeper. But once I saw Sydney (Davis) and the way she was playing in preseason, I knew we were going to be fine. Sydney has done a great job as goalkeeper. I think we surprised some people in the conference this season, but I wasn't surprised."
When her playing career does come to an end, Kratz will leave the program as one of the most productive players in program history. A three-time All-ODAC selection and a first-team pick this season, Kratz ranks in Bridgewater's Top 5 in career points and career goals and Top 10 in career assists. In addition to the 2017 ODAC Championship appearance, Kratz helped lead this year's squad to the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament and a trip to the NCAA tournament – both firsts for the program.
"I'd like to think that I've played a part in moving the program forward and making it better," said Kratz. "I know they will be great next year. I like to support others and next year I'll be there to support the team. The girls are going to see me at a lot of games next year."
First things first. Before becoming an avid supporter of the program, Kratz has at least one more game to play as she and her teammates try to add to another notch in the win column in this historic season.