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 32nd season as the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ head coach in the fall of 2019.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs’ career leader in wins with 208, Setzer, has spent his entire 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.
The 2018 edition of the Runnin' Bulldogs struggled in non-conference play but went 4-4-0 in Big South play to make the league tournament as the No. 5 seed. The 'Dogs fell to Campbell in the first round of the tournament, but the awards were numerous for Setzer's squad, both on and off the field.
Oskar Wang was named First-Team All-Big South, while Jack Hoey, the team's leading goal scorer with seven, earned Second-Team All-Big South honors and First-Team NCCSIA recognition. Simen Olsen also earned Second-Team All-BSC honors. At the conclusion of the Big South tournament, David Moreno made the All-Tournament.
Off the field, Simen Olsen was a United Soccer Coaches Scholar All-South Region Second-Team selection. Additionally, for the first time since 2003, one of Setzer's players was named a Google Cloud Academic All-American as computer science major Brian Stepanek earned that distinction.
The 2017 squad fell one win shy of equaling the 2013 team's total. Setzer's team finished 8-7-2 overall with a 4-2-1 mark in the Big South action. The 'Dogs qualified for the BSC tournament as the No. 5 seed but suffered a 3-0 loss to fourth-seeded Liberty.
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 Tournament for the first time since joining the league in 2008. The Runnin' Bulldogs 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
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 team 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.
His 2006 team reeled off a 5-1-1 A-Sun record and earned the No. 2 spot in the conference championship tournament. Playing at Stetson University, Gardner-Webb downed the host team by a 2-1 score in the championship match, earning the school’s first-ever bid to the NCAA Championship Tournament.
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 matches 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 32 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 12 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 20 different 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.
During Gardner-Webb’s time in the South Atlantic Conference, Setzer developed 28 All-Conference performers and five All-South Region choices. Edwin Odugba (1994 and 1995) and Lee Yaw were both named South Atlantic Conference First Union Scholar-Athlete of the Year during their careers, also earning All-Conference honors during those seasons.
Setzer has also coached one Big South Men’s Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year in Trent Kozman (2009), one ESPN The Magazine (CoSIDA) Academic All-District III honoree Todd Ulrich (2003), 12 Academic All-Americans, five NSCAA/Adidas Scholar-Athlete All-South selections and numerous Big South and Atlantic Sun All-Academic Team honorees.
Prior to joining the Gardner-Webb family, Setzer served as an assistant coach at The Citadel under Bill Barfield. Setzer earned his Master’s degree from The Citadel in 1988.
A 1986 graduate of Lander (S.C.) University, Setzer was a standout goalkeeper for the annually powerful Senators and enjoyed a brief professional playing career with the Columbus Capitals of the APISL before heading to The Citadel.
Setzer, who holds a USSF “A” License, is also the founder of the Runnin’ Bulldog Soccer Academy, and has been a driving force in the youth soccer movement in Cleveland County and, specifically, in Boiling Springs with the Greater Cleveland County Soccer Association. On most Saturdays, thousands of youth soccer players descend on Gardner-Webb University’s campus to compete in league and tournament matches.
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. The couple resides in Boiling Springs and has four daughters. Madison, Sydney Dianne, Morgan Jeanette and Cadence McRee.