They used to dream about winning championships, making it at the Division-I level, reaching the professional ranks.
All these years later, it turns out there’s not much Sammie Bachrodt, Grace Hagan and Sydney Kuhn can’t accomplish when they are determined.
Together, they played sports together from kindergarten to their senior years at Kapaun Mount Carmel, highlighted by the 2012 state championship they won together on the basketball court.
Apart, Bachrodt (Drake basketball), Hagan (Kansas soccer) and Kuhn (Notre Dame volleyball) went to different states to play different sports with the trio of best friends managing to carve out standout careers in their own paths. Kuhn just wrapped up her first year playing professional volleyball in France, while Bachrodt is pursuing a professional basketball career overseas and Hagan, who was invited to a United States women’s national under-23 soccer team camp, has chosen to attend medical school.
After spending so many years of dreaming what they could do and who they could be, Bachrodt, Hagan and Kuhn reunited this past week in Wichita at the Greater Wichita Sports banquet with Bachrodt accepting a special award for her excellence and inspiration. Back together once again, they reflected on what they’ve accomplished and the women they’ve become.
“It’s kind of crazy to look back at it all now and see how each of us have followed their dreams,” Kuhn said. “Sports have always been about the team and our teammates to us, so seeing them have success in what they’re doing is just as sweet as it was for me to follow my dream.”
‘That’s why our bond is so strong’
They each had their own favorite sport, but they were good athletes and better friends, so they would play the others’ favorites so they could be together.
That meant Hagan and Bachrodt giving volleyball a try to play with Kuhn, and Bachrodt playing soccer with Hagan. But it was basketball — Bachrodt’s favorite — where the trio excelled the most.
When the trio reached high school (Kuhn, a 2014 Kapaun graduate, was one year older), they started training together at Apex Personal Training with co-owner Bill O’Connor. The workouts were more intense than anything they had ever done, but they pushed through because they wanted to get better and because they were there for each other.
“That’s honestly why I think our bond is so strong,” Bachrodt said. “We’ve all seen each other at our worst.”
Their defining moment together at Kapaun was their first, playing together on the girls basketball team that made the improbable run to the 2012 Class 5A championship that culminated with a 51-44 victory over Blue Valley in Topeka. Bachrodt, as a freshman, made 12 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter and scored a game-high 16 points, while Kuhn nearly posted a double-double and Hagan played her brand of ferocious defense to lead the Crusaders to the pinnacle in their first year playing together.
“I really had no idea how big of a deal a state championship was at the time,” Bachrodt said. “I just remember being almost frozen for like the first three minutes of the game. But that was such a valuable experience playing in a game with everything on the line, one that I still draw from. When I played at Drake, it was like the same thing, the same feelings, just a bigger stage.”
At Kapaun, they were each the star player in their respective sports. They gelled not only because they were best friends and great athletes, but also because they had the same outlook on sports: They never lost their humility, they put their team first and they always made the right play.
Those traits made Bachrodt into the star that she became at Drake. She probably could have been a leading scorer, but that’s not what Drake needed. She embraced her role as defensive stopper and as a result, finished her career with a 104-30 record at Drake, including a 53-1 span in Missouri Valley Conference play the last three years, three conference championships and three trips to the NCAA Tournament.
“At the Division-I level, everyone is good and everyone can score, but not everyone wants to play defense,” Bachrodt said. “I wanted to play defense. I took pride in it. Honestly, there’s not a lot of skill in playing defense, it’s more about heart and just playing hard all the time.”
Playing her role, Bachrodt etched her name in Drake history. Not only for being a foundational piece to one of the most successful stretches in program history, but also as arguably the best defender in program history.
This past spring, Bachrodt won her second straight MVC defensive player of the year award. She was voted first team all-conference twice, averaged 8.8 points per game in her career and finished as Drake’s all-time steals leader with 282 career steals (at 2.1 per game).
“When I came to Drake, I left my visit hugging everyone because it already felt like home and like family,” Bachrodt said. “That’s what I always wanted in a college. I can honestly say these last four years have been the best time in my life.”
‘Nothing Grace does surprises me at this point’
Hagan has always been a go-getter in life, so much so that her father, Phil, used to jokingly refer to her as a greyhound.
“If something is in front of her, she’s going to catch it,” Phil Hagan said of his daughter. “But she won’t speed up or go any faster if nothing is in front of her.”
In the last four years, Hagan has: graduated from KU with a major in biology and minor in Spanish with a 3.73 grade-point average; won the Big 12 soccer scholar athlete of the year award this spring; been a member of a sorority; volunteered at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and at a church; and most recently, gained early admission to KU School of Medicine.
And in her spare time, she cemented herself as one of the best players in KU soccer history, finishing as just the second in program history with at least 25 goals and 15 assists in her career.
“I think I get a lot of it from my parents and their mindsets in life,” Grace said. “They’re the most wildly successful people that I know. I couldn’t look up to them any more than I do. It’s so wonderful to watch them and how many lives they touch on a daily basis. As I’ve gotten older, I’m so much more appreciative of them as my role models.”
Both of her parents are doctors: Her father, Phil, is an orthopedic surgeon, while her mother, Maggie, is an infectious disease specialist.
With three children and their own practices, the Hagan family is busy by nature. There was always some sport going on with one (usually all three) kid involved. While Grace always loved sports, especially soccer, her parents recognized early on that they would never define her.
“She was never one of those girls who spent all of her time focused on soccer,” Maggie said. “She wanted to do a lot of different things and she never put limits on herself. I think when she got to college, Grace wanted that real college experience that not every student-athlete is able to experience. She worked hard in soccer and gave her best, but she also didn’t want to miss out on life.”
In her four years at KU, Grace went on a medical mission trip to Ecuador, spent six weeks in Argentina learning Spanish and traveled to Tanzania, where she hiked Mount Kilimanjaro.
Initially, she didn’t know if she could complete the grueling climb to the top. But like a greyhound, the pursuit of what was in front of her pushed Grace to a level she didn’t know she had. In a group of 25 who completed the week-long hike together, Grace was the only woman.
But what made the experience truly memorable was that her father was there to accompany her. Their busy lives had never allowed much one-on-one time together, but for an entire week, they were completely unplugged from the outside world. The experience made their father-daughter bond even stronger.
For all of the things Grace has accomplished on the soccer field — in 2017 she even earned an invitation to the U-23 U.S. National Team camp — both father and daughter agree that the hike is their favorite memory.
“As a parent, I think you always wish you had more moments like that in life,” Phil Hagan said. “That was at a crucial time in Grace’s life. She was a young lady trying to figure out how she fit in the world, what profession she was going to go into, how she was going to balance soccer and her academics. It’s really incredible to think about how she’s handled everything, but nothing Grace does surprises me at this point. You just have to sit back and smile and enjoy the ride. That trip will always be something I cherish.”
‘We will always have that life-long bond’
While all three of the girls had dreams of playing sports professionally, Kuhn was the first to experience it.
Kuhn wrapped up a stellar career on the Notre Dame volleyball team in 2017. The 6-foot-1 outside hitter was a four-year starter and became just the 16th player in program history to reach the 1,000-dig mark (1,040) and also added 950 career kills.
“Everyone always says it, and it sounds cliche and cheesy, but there really isn’t any other place like Notre Dame,” Kuhn said. “The people, the resources, the community behind you, it really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I believe made me into who I am today.”
That experience allowed Kuhn to ink a professional contract last year with the Evreux Panthers in France. Evreux is one-hour train ride from Paris.
“There was always that thought in the back of your head that maybe I could play professionally, but I never thought it would actually happen,” Kuhn said. “It was definitely a different experience in another country, but I had an awesome time.”
Even with Kuhn in a different country, she remained in close contact with Bachrodt and Hagan this past year through social media. They constantly send each other Snapchats, and they have a group chat where they can lean on each other to get through difficult times.
And now with Bachrodt pursuing a professional basketball career overseas, Kuhn is more than happy to help along the way with tips for how to adjust to a new country and speaking a foreign language since she has lived that experience.
Through different sports, different states, different countries and different careers, Bachrodt, Hagan and Kuhn still have the same thing in common: They’re successful in whatever they’re pursuing.
Regardless of where the future takes each of them, they know they have the other two to count on.
“I think we will always have that lifelong bond because we’ve been best friends for so long,” Bachrodt said. “We have so many memories together over the years. I’m so lucky to have them as my best friends. There’s no doubt that we’ll always have that connection forever.”