They are at opposite ends of their careers.
They are from different backgrounds and their roles on their respective teams are opposite.
But senior striker Shelby Bradford and freshman James Crockford have been two important components in their Husson University women’s and men’s soccer teams’ success this fall.
Bradford is the school’s all-time leading scorer with 62 goals and 36 assists for 160 points in 59 games. She is from Lee and is one of the offensive catlysts for the Eagles.
Crockford is from the London suburb of Watford, England, and is the Eagles’ right back. He has been one of the defensive stalwarts as the Eagles have allowed only one goal in their current four-game winning streak.
The Eagle men host Castleton State (Vt.) in Saturday’s 1 p.m. North Atlantic Conference championship game while the Husson women travel to Castleton State for their NAC title game on Sunday at noon.
Bradford and Crockford share some similarities.
Both have tremendous passion for soccer and both have ties to the University of Maine.
Bradford, then known as Shelby Pickering before she married Husson men’s basketball standout Brock Bradford, spent her freshman season playing for the Black Bears where she appeared in 13 games and had a goal. She transferred to Husson after her freshman year.
Crockford had intended to play for the Black Bears but the university suspended the men’s soccer program last spring.
“One of my high school teachers knew the Maine coach [Pat Laughlin]. But when they shut down the program, I decided to come to Husson. [Husson coach] Seth Brown was a good friend of the teacher as well. Seth told me if I still wanted to come to America, Husson was ready and waiting for you,” explained Crockford.
Bradford has had to deal with double and triple teams all season and her statistics have understandably suffered. After notching 26 goals and 11 assists as a sophomore and 23 goals and 15 assists a year ago — she was a medical redshirt in her second year at Husson due to a knee injury — she has been limited to 13 goals and 10 assists this year.
But she is still the team’s leading scorer and the extra attention given to Bradford has enabled the Eagles to develop important scoring depth. There are five other Eagles with at least five goals.
“She has played very well for us,” said Husson coach Keith Bosley. “She is really unselfish. If she doesn’t have a scoring opportunity, she knows someone else does. So she finds the open person. Her goal total may be down but she still contributes on the same high level. It’s just a little bit less obvious.”
“I haven’t had as many chances to score this season but we have so many other people who can score and I’ve been setting them up. That’s just as good. As long as we score and win,” said Bradford.
She assisted on all three goals in Husson’s 3-0 semifinal win over Maine Maritime Academy.
Bradford said getting double and triple-teamed is nothing new.
“It’s been that way my whole life. It was the same way in high school. But if two people are making you, it means someone else is open. There’s someone else you can give the ball to,” said Bradford.
She said she has “definitely been happy with her career” but isn’t ready to trade in the soccer spikes for basketball sneakers yet.
She also stars for the basketball and women’s lacrosse teams at Husson.
“I want to stay with soccer as long as we can. Hopefully, we can win Sunday and play at least a couple of games in the national [NCAA Division III] Tournament,” said Bradford.
Brown said he usually lets the center backs control the back line but he has so much confidence in Crockford, “we allow him to dictate a lot from the right back position. He is so able on the ball and we play out of the back much more than we have in the past. He’s very steady.”
Crockford said he has had some “good performances” but “I’ve also made some wrong decisions.
“Overall, I’ve been pretty proud of what I’ve done. I just try to do my best and I’ll do anything to win,” he said.
He is not only noticeable on the field for his play. You can also hear him talking constantly to his teammates in order to help to organize the back line.
“I like to talk. It’s like having a 12th man on the field,” he said.
He expected that it would take some time to “settle in” but he said, “I settled in very quickly. I thoroughly enjoy it here. The team is building every day and we’re doing so much better than we were at the beginning of the season.”
In addition to its four-game winning streak, Husson has won five of its last six and he said team meeting at midseason helped turn the season around.
“We had quite a crisis in the middle of the season, We struggled to get a few results [wins or ties]. We were struggling to get goals,” said Crockford.
But the Eagles broke out of their goal-scoring drought and finished the regular season with a 6-0 win over the University of Maine-Farmington prior to beating Maine Maritime Academy of Castine 2-0 in the semifinals.
“You don’t go undefeated in your conference without working hard. We work really hard,” said Crockford, who added that he enjoys being on a team with teammates who his passion for the game.
“They love playing the game,” he said.
He said being on the same side of the field with leading scorer Mark Trombley has been beneficial,
“We work really well together,” said Crockford, who is looking forward to the title game.
“It should be a good final,” he said.