by Richard Martin
GWU Today | @RNM1996
Gardner-Webb Women's Lacrosse is preparing to enter it's third season of play, as it opens the 2017 season on February 8 at Virginia Tech. First, the Runnin' Bulldogs will host an exhibition on Friday, February 3, vs. Division II power Limestone at 4:00 pm.
Last year the Runnin' Bulldogs quadrupled their win total from the year before and were at the top of the Big South in saves. Second-year head coach Jill Krick is confident about the 2017 season.
"I'm really excited for this season," said Krick. "I think we have a really close, tight knit team that's going to surprise some people. We've been focusing on our culture, which is going to carry us into the season and take us really far."
Gardner-Webb has a lot of youth on the team, as seven freshmen (Janice Donaldson, Ashley Fisch, Sara Marconi, Maddie Stephens, Carrie Studdard, Katie Sylvester, and Melan White) will make their debut for the Runnin' Bulldogs this year. Coach Krick has been impressed with her freshmen's intensity and eagerness to play.
"I'm really excited about our freshmen and to see how they perform," said Krick. "They looked great in fall ball, but the real test is coming in the regular season. But I'm confident they'll all help us this season."
The Bulldogs do return several veteran players this year. Lindsey Lippert, Monique Martin, Cassidy McDowell, and Emma Rose all return for the 'Dogs, along with preseason All- Big South selection Amanda Steinmuller. Last year, Steinmuller finished with 28 goals and four assists, good for second on the team. Steinmuller is proud to be one of the few Runnin' Bulldogs to be named All-Big South.
"It feels great," said Steinmuller. "I put in a lot of hard work last year and it feels great to be rewarded for it."
This year's schedule includes 10 home games, including the exhibiton matchup against Limestone. GWU will travel to Blacksburg, Virginia on February 8 to take on ACC powerhouse Virginia Tech. Last year, the Dogs fell to Virginia Tech 18-1 in Boiling Springs.
Gardner-Webb will then travel to Mercer on February 25, looking to avenge a heartbreaking, 8-7 overtime loss to the Bears last year at home. Gardner-Webb will play their first regular season home game against Saint Francis on February 28 – a team GWU beat, 12-11, last year for the team's first ever non-conference victory.
The 'Dogs will then face Virginia Commonwealth in Spangler Stadium on March 3. The Rams knocked off GWU by a 21-9 score in Richmond last season. Gardner-Webb then has a quick turnaround, as they'll travel to Kennesaw State on March 5. The 'Dogs went on to defeat the Owls 17-12 in Boiling Springs last year, setting the program record for most goals in a game.
Gardner-Webb will host Butler, who will be in their first year of play in the Big East, on March 8. Butler also plays Big South foes Liberty and Presbyterian in their first year. Gardner-Webb will then face another new opponent, LIU-Brooklyn, at home on March 10. The Blackbirds finished 5-12 last season and play Radford and Presbyterian this season.
Gardner-Webb travels to Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, to face Central Michigan on March 14. The Chippewas earned their first ever win as a program last year in Spangler Stadium, knocking off the Runnin' Bulldogs 16-4. The Dogs will stay up north, traveling to Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats on March 17. The Bearcats finished 4-13 last year, including a 17-6 win over Presbyterian and an 11-4 loss to Winthrop.
Gardner-Webb will finish the nonconference stretch on March 23 hosting rival Furman, who finished third in the Atlantic Sun Conference and defeated GWU 15-8 in Greenville last year.
The Dogs begin the Big South season by hosting preseason favorite High Point on April 1. The Panthers eliminated GWU in the first round of the Big South Conference Tournament last season with a 19-2 victory. Gardner-Webb will then travel to Radford for the first time ever on April 5. The Dogs knocked off the Highlanders 14-13 last season.
Gardner-Webb will host Presbyterian on April 8, a team the 'Dogs are 2-0 against. GWU earned a 12-11 overtime victory in Clinton last year and picked up the program's first-ever win over PC two seasons ago in the 2015 finale. The 'Dogs will then face conference rival Liberty, which defeated GWU 16-10 in Lynchburg last year.
The 'Dogs travel to Campbell on April 15 – and then to defending Big South Conference Champion Winthrop on April 19 – before finsihing regular season play on April 22 against Longwood in Spangler Stadium.
Despite being picked to finish eighth in the Big South, Steinmuller is confident her team will turn some heads this year.
"I'm really excited for the season," said Steinmuller. "I'm excited for our freshmen this season. They have really integrated with our team well, and I'm really excited for us to turn heads this season."