Head Men’s Soccer Coach Tony Setzer, one of the pillars of the Gardner-Webb’s men’s soccer program during his career in Boiling Springs, N.C., is entering his 28th season as the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ head coach.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs’ career leader in wins with 185, Setzer, has spent his entire 27-year collegiate career as a head coach in Boiling Springs, N.C., and has spearheaded the growth of soccer at Gardner-Webb University and throughout Cleveland County.
Setzer has been vital in the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ success over a number of transitions, as GWU moved from NAIA to NCAA Division II in 1993-1994, transitioned to the NCAA Division I level in 2000-01, moved into the Atlantic Sun Conference in 2002-03 and then most recently moved into the Big South Conference in 2008-09.
Over the last few years, Setzer’s teams have posted a number of key wins as the 2011 Runnin’ Bulldog squad defeated High Point for the first time in the program’s history, posted a win at Patchin Field and VMI for the first-time ever and defeated a nationally ranked opponent in No. 20 VCU at the UAB “Soccer For a Cure” Classic, while the 2009 team recorded GWU’s first-ever win over an ACC school with a 1-0 win at Clemson in the season opener. The 2009 Runnin’ Bulldogs’ also had wins over Jacksonville and Liberty, both of which were only the second ever wins over those two teams in the program’s history.
The 2013 Runnin’ Bulldogs posted the program’s sixth winning season since joining the Division I ranks, compiling a 9-8-1 overall mark while finishing fourth in the Big South standings with a 6-4 league record. Led by the nation’s leading scorer, Denzel Clarke, the Runnin’ Bulldogs rode a five-match winning streak into the regular season finale with High Point before falling to Radford in extra time in the Big South Quarterfinals.
Setzer’s 2011 team posted a second-place finish in the Big South Regular Season standings and advanced all the way to the Championship game in the Big South Conference Championship Tournament for the first time since joining the League in 2008.
His 2006 team reeled off a 5-1-1 A-Sun record and earned the No. 2 spot at the conference championship tournament. Playing at Stetson University, his squad downed the host squad by a 2-1 score in the Championship game, earning the school’s first-ever bid to the NCAA Championship Tournament.
Playing at UAB in the opening round of the NCAA College Cup in 2006, the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ scored a 1-1 tie and moved on to the second round due to a 3-1 margin in penalty kicks after the two teams’ played two scoreless overtime periods.
Tough schedules are nothing new to Setzer or his team, as the Runnin’ Bulldogs are noted for refusing to shy away from challenges. Over the past 10 seasons, Gardner-Webb has played 12 games against opponents ranked in the top-15 nationally, including top-ranked North Carolina in 2012 and top-ranked Wake Forest in 2002.
Success is no stranger to Setzer either. In 1998, at the Division II level, Setzer directed the Runnin’ Bulldogs to their first national top-25 ranking, as GWU reached as high as No. 21 in the Division II poll behind a balanced attack and strong defense.
Over his 26 years at GWU, Setzer has coached the top goalkeeper and three scorers in Gardner-Webb history, both single-season and career, and has tutored an impressive 16 All-Americans during his tenure - including 11 Academic All-Americans. He has also coached the 2006 Atlantic Sun Conference Freshman of the Year in Boris Gatzky, two South Atlantic Conference Freshman of the Year honorees in Jurgen Wagner in 1998 and Vince Bueno in 1996, two South Atlantic Conference Player of the Year winners in Jerome Lee Yaw in 1995 and Dennis Puckerin in 1990 and a two-time South Atlantic Conference President’s Award (Best Male Athlete) winner in Edwin Odugba, who won the award in 1994 and 1995 as the league’s top male student-athlete, making him the only Gardner-Webb performer, in any sport, to earn the honor twice.
The 2006 Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year and the 1990 South Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year has helped tutor 15 Big South All-Conference honorees since Gardner-Webb joined the League in 2008 and nine Atlantic Sun All-Conference selections from 2002-07, as the Runnin’ Bulldogs have had at least one student-athlete named to an all-conference team in each of the program’s last 10 years.
Setzer is married to the former Kristen Lott, a four-time All-Conference selection for the Gardner-Webb women’s program in the mid-1990s, and finished her career as the program’s leader in goals with 49 and second leading career scorer with 113 points. The couple resides in Boiling Springs and has four daughters. Madison (12), Sydney Dianne (8), Morgan Jeanette (8) and Cadence McRee (8).