The 2011 Gardner-Webb volleyball team showed constant
improvement throughout the season, setting new team single-season records,
individual records and career marks as the Runnin' Bulldogs posted a 10-20
overall record and a 5-9 record in Big South Conference play.
In his first season at the helm of the Runnin' Bulldogs'
program, head coach Leo Sayles saw his team increase their win total by five
games from the previous season and post five conference wins, tying the most
conference wins in a single-season for a GWU team in the program's 11-year NCAA
Division I history.
Gardner-Webb also received postseason recognition, as senior
middleblocker Laura Wilcox earned a spot on the Big South All-Conference
Second-Team for a third-time in four years, while fellow senior Evan Moffitt
was tabbed the 2011 Big South Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was
named to the Big South All-Academic Team for the third straight season. Freshman setter Heather Feldman
received Big South All-Freshman Team honors and was the lone freshman to be
named to the North Carolina College Sports Information Association University
All-State Volleyball Team.
On top of the individual postseason awards, the Runnin'
Bulldogs set both a number of team and individual single-season records in
2011. As a team, Gardner-Webb set a new GWU Division I single-season record in
total blocks with 236 on the season and in block assists with 308 on the year. GWU's
total blocks per set average of 2.05 is the second highest for a single-season
in GWU's DI history, while their 82 solo blocks and their 11.05 assists per set
average both rank third in GWU's Division I history for a single-season.
The Runnin' Bulldogs also received national recognition, as
their 1.53 aces per set average placed 29th in the nation overall among the 322
NCAA Division I volleyball programs.
Individually, Wilcox set a new GWU Division I single-season
record in attack percentage, posting a .348 attack percentage with a minimum of
100 kills on the year, which ranked 46th nationally among all NCAA Division I
schools, while Moffitt's 477 digs and 4.26 digs per set average both rank
fourth respectively in GWU's Division I single-season history. Not to be
overshadowed, Feldman's 1,103 set assists and 9.59 assists per set average on
the year both placed her fifth overall in GWU's DI single-season record books
in those respective categories, while junior right side hitter Carol Solano's
68 block assists ranks third and her 77 total blocks ranks fifth overall for a
However, middleblocker Tyler Cockrell's 2011 season was
record setting, as the sophomore set a new GWU Division I single-season record
in total blocks with 150 and in block assists with 108 on the year. Her 1.35 blocks per set average not
only was a new single-season record for GWU, but it also placed her 21st
overall in the nation in blocks per set among all NCAA Division I schools. She
finished the year tied for second overall with 42 solo blocks and posted the
ninth highest attack percentage with a minimum of 100 kills for a single-season
with a mark of .218 on the season.
With strong individual seasons by a number of different players,
career marks were set and career milestones were reached in a number of
different categories in 2011.
Wilcox recorded her 1,000th career kill and her 200th career block
during the year, while Moffitt tallied her 1,000th career dig midway through
the season. Wilcox set the GWU
Division I record for total blocks with 229, only to have Cockrell record
double-digit blocks in two of the final three matches to overtake Wilcox and
set the new record at 255 and counting.
The excitement was in the air, as the Runnin' Bulldogs
averaged close to 300 people over their nine home matches, a huge increase in
attendance over the last several seasons, as the rafters in Paul Porter Arena
were shaking from start to finish and proved to be a huge home court advantage
for coach Sayles and his team.
The season, which included GWU's first-ever win over the
Liberty Lady Flames and their first-ever conference win over High Point,
started out with a tough stretch of road matches in which Gardner-Webb went 2-9
with wins at home over Montreat College and over Iona at the Coastal Carolina
Gardner-Webb then posted back-to-back wins over Wofford and
Western Carolina to improve to 4-9 overall heading into the start of conference
After four straight road losses, three of which came in Big South
play, Gardner-Webb downed Winthrop 3-1 at home to stop the skid and give the
Runnin' Bulldogs their first conference win since 2009.
Sitting at 5-13 overall and 1-3 in conference play, GWU fell
at home to Presbyterian, but bounced back to win four out of their next five
matches to improve to 9-15 overall and 4-5 in conference play.
However, three straight losses to Campbell, PC and Winthrop
appeared to have dampened the Runnin' Bulldogs confidence, until Gardner-Webb,
in front of a packed Paul Porter Arena, upended Liberty, 3-0, on Senior Night
on November 11th to not only give GWU double-digit wins on the year, but give
the Runnin' Bulldogs five wins in conference play, the most that GWU has had in
a single-season since joining the Big South in 2008.
The win not only was huge for the Runnin' Bulldog volleyball
program, but it also served as a spoiler for the Lady Flames, as the loss cost
Liberty the outright Big South Regular Season Championship, as the Lady Flames
finished in a tie with Winthop for first-place overall at the season's end.
Gardner-Webb then suffered a home loss to Radford the next
day in the regular season finale, putting them as the No. 8 seed in the Big
South Volleyball Championship Tournament the following week.
There the Runnin' Bulldogs once again met Liberty, as the
No. 1 seeded Lady Flames held off a late GWU charge to win the match 3-1 and end
the Runnin' Bulldogs season at 10-20 overall and 5-9 in conference play.
Despite the departure of seniors Wilcox, Moffitt and Lauren Evans due to graduation, the trio has helped to build and establish a strong
foundation for the GWU volleyball program, that the returners and coach Sayles
intend to continue to grow and build on both now and in the future ... A future
that looks bright for the Gardner-Webb volleyball program.