news-category: Athletics

Erik Solberg Named Gardner-Webb’s Head Women’s Soccer Coach

a graphic with photo of GWU's new soccer coach

Former Arkansas Pine-Bluff leader brings 8 seasons of head coaching experience to GWU

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Gardner-Webb President Dr. William M. Downs has named Erik Solberg the next head coach of the GWU women’s soccer program, the Department of Athletics announced on Friday, Jan. 12. Solberg joins GWU after four seasons as the head coach at the University of Arkansas Pine-Bluff (UAPB).

“Our Women’s Soccer team deserves a leader who is committed to sharpening the competitive skills of each and every student-athlete, and Coach Erik Solberg has demonstrated his dedication to player development throughout his entire career,” praised Downs. “When we interviewed Solberg for the position, I heard three important pledges: first, he promised to outwork anyone; second, he promised to leverage GWU’s facilities and resources to ensure that his teams compete at the very top of the Big South Conference on a yearly basis; and, third, he dared to envision leading his Runnin’ Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Exceptional effort, unquestioned integrity, and limitless ambition … those are the qualities that distinguish Erik Solberg and that made him our top choice.”

At UAPB (2020-2023), Solberg steadied a program after being named the Golden Lions’ sixth different head coach in an eight-year span. By his third season in Pine Bluff, Solberg led UAPB to a 9-11 overall record, its best season since 2016, and a 4-4-1 conference record, the program’s best record in Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) play since 2015. The 2022 season opened with a 1-0 victory over Arkansas State University, the program’s first win over a Division I foe outside of conference play since 2011. 

In 2023, the Golden Lions again finished with nine wins, completing the program’s best two-year stretch since 2010-2011. This past season, Solberg’s Golden Lions led the SWAC in scoring, finishing 18th-nationally in total goals (49) and 20th-nationally in goals per game (2.33).

GWU Soccer Shield

During his tenure at UAPB, Solberg coached 12 all-conference players, including a SWAC Offensive Player of the Year (2022), Defensive Player of the Year (2023), and Freshman of the Year (2022), with eight SWAC Player of the Week recognitions.

Solberg is the only head coach in UAPB history to lead his team to four consecutive SWAC Tournament appearances. In each of Solberg’s four seasons at UAPB, the Golden Lions outperformed their preseason ranking.

“Erik is a highly respected Division I head coach, and an incredibly hard worker, with a positive can-do attitude that will inspire our team and unite our community behind this women’s soccer program,” said Vice President and Director of Athletics Dr. Andrew T. Goodrich.

Prior to Pine Bluff, Solberg was the head coach at Northwestern Oklahoma State University for one season (2019), where he led the Rangers to a 7-10-1 record, doubling their win total from the previous season and posting the program’s highest win total since becoming a full NCAA Division II member. Four of Solberg’s players earned all-conference recognition, including the Newcomer of the Year, as Northwestern Oklahoma posted its highest point total in conference play since 2004.

Solberg brings eight years of head coaching experience to Boiling Springs, having previously spent three seasons at Division III East Texas Baptist University (2016-2018), where he went 27-21-7. In 2017, Solberg led the Tigers to a program-record 13 wins, including an upset victory over NCAA Division I Alcorn State University. Under his leadership, two Tigers earned all-region honors and 17 players were named all-conference selections, including the American Southwestern Conference Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year.

Prior to his time at East Texas, Solberg was an assistant coach at East Central University (2014-2015). He also served one season as a volunteer assistant at Nicholls State University (2013).

A native of Arlington Heights, Ill., Solberg was a student-athlete at the University of Mississippi, competing at the varsity level on the track and field and cross-country teams and scoring for the Rebels at the 2009 Southeastern Conference (SEC) Cross Country Championships. He was named to the SEC Honor Roll for the 2009-10 season and, during a season of graduate eligibility at Southeastern Louisiana University, was named to the Southland Conference Honor Roll.

“I’m truly honored and blessed to be named the head women’s soccer coach at Gardner-Webb University,” Solberg asserted. “I’d first like to thank President Downs, Dr. Goodrich, and Coach Scott Wells for entrusting me with the privilege of leading this program. It was immediately apparent in the interview process that Gardner-Webb is a special, tight-knit place with a clear vision for success and deep investment in athletics, academics, and spiritual life such that I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I’d also like to say thank you to my family, especially my wife, Shelby, for their steadfast support, sacrifice, and encouragement.”

He continued, “Lastly, I want to express my gratitude to Chris Peterson, Chris Robinson, and the rest of the UAPB administration for giving me the opportunity to lead that program, as I’m tremendously proud of what we built together.”

Solberg takes over as the seventh head coach in Gardner-Webb program history. He holds a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from Ole Miss (’12) and a Master’s of Education with a concentration in sports administration from East Central (’15). Solberg and his wife Shelby have two sons, Hayes and Harris. “My family and I are excited to be part of the Cleveland County community, and usher in a new era of Bulldog Women’s Soccer,” Solberg pledged. “I believe there is no limit to what we can accomplish together.”

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at Gardner-Webb.edu.

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