Recent Graduates Martin, Deaver Off and Running at Gardner-Webb


Maddie Martin, now a head coach, is Gardner-Webb's all-time leader in draw controls with 268.

Maddie Martin thought she’d be doing secretarial work and focusing on the draws as a first-year assistant coach at Gardner-Webb, her alma mater.

On Oct. 28, Dr. Andrew Goodrich named Martin the interim head coach in one of his first moves as director of athletics, a position he started in early October.

“I knew I was going to be a coach, but I couldn’t have guessed this would be what was going to come about,” said Martin, the school’s all-time leader in draws (268).

To call how it came about a whirlwind would be an understatement.

It started in August, when Jessie Aguglia announced she was leaving the head coach post she’d held since 2019 for Wofford, another Big South program. Her assistant, Leigh Anne Olson, ultimately chose to follow. Martin couldn’t bring herself to do the same.

“I couldn’t leave the girls I had been playing with,” Martin said.

Martin attempted to navigate fall ball as the lone remaining coach — and recruiting, which began 13 days after Wofford announced Aguglia’s hiring, but who’s counting? Meanwhile, Chuck Burch, who announced his retirement after two decades as the school’s AD, began a nationwide search. He couldn’t find the perfect candidate. Goodrich thought he’d have more luck bringing in a seasoned coach using his connections at Syracuse, where he had worked since 2018.

“I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to shake that Syracuse tree. We’re going to find an incredible candidate, and we’re going to have a new coach down here in no time,’” Goodrich said. “I kept hearing the same thing over and over again, ‘We’re really excited about Gardner-Webb. I wish you called me in late August.’”

Meanwhile, Martin was in the middle of an eight-week stretch without much certainty. She was trying to provide stability to the current team and seal the program’s future without knowing what the future held for any of them.

“At the time, I was an assistant coach, so I couldn’t offer girls money,” Martin said. “It wasn’t my position. That was the biggest challenge.”

Goodrich extended lines of support, attending practices and a fall game during his short tenure. And he had regular meetings with captains Jada Preston, Brittney Sherrod and Heather Lobas, where a consistent theme emerged: Maddie was the perfect candidate.

“That was the a-ha moment,” Goodrich said.

Goodrich put down the phone, looked at who was right in front of him and offered Martin the job. The obvious factor — her age, 23 — wasn’t a concern.

“Yes, she’s young, but at Syracuse, people were talking about how young Kayla Treanor is, and she is a rock star,” Goodrich said. “The more I started thinking about that, the more I thought we had an answer with Maddie.”

Martin had already spoken to former classmate Lauren Deaver, who broke the program’s single-season record with 29 assists as a fifth-year, about coming on to coach the offense. She was still in the area, initially planning to take a gap year before pursuing her Master’s in occupational therapy. She happily accepted.

But unlike Treanor, who had spent several years at Boston College under Acacia Walker-Weinstein, where she developed Sam Apuzzo and Charlotte North into Tewaaraton winners, Martin and Deaver had never coached Division I lacrosse. Martin actually had one more year of eligibility remaining as a player but felt she had already pushed her body to its limits. Goodrich knew they’d need support, and it was his job to find it for her.

He came up with an unconventional idea inspired by what he saw while working at the University South Florida. Willie Taggart, who is now at Florida Atlantic, took over the football program at 37. The AD at the time, Mark Harlan, brought in Dick Tommy, who produced decade-long tenures at Arizona and Hawaii, as an executive head coach to mentor Taggart. Taggart led the Bulls to their first 10-win season in 2016. Goodrich wanted to do the same for women’s lacrosse at Gardner-Webb.

“I thought, ‘Who is a coach who is really accomplished who is recently retired and wasn’t just successful on the field but is a great teacher?’” Goodrich said. “I just wrote that on a piece of paper.”

Goodrich shook the Syracuse tree once again, this time with a conversation with former Johns Hopkins men’s head coach and current Syracuse defensive coordinator Dave Pietramala.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to call Janine Tucker,’” Goodrich said. “I had several conversations. … I almost did a backflip. I thought, ‘This is the best executive coach out there.’”

The initial ask was just to talk to Martin, so Tucker got on the phone and gave her a call.

“Here was this young woman who had been there for five years and had been clearly running the team all fall,” Tucker said. “She was so dialed into helping her team. She and Lauren had no fear.”

Tucker knew a thing or two about being handed the keys to a program at a young age. Her celebrated 28-year tenure at Hopkins began when she was 24. Her mentor, Diane Geppi-Aikens, the legendary former coach at Loyola, wouldn’t let her back down from the challenge. When Goodrich asked her to come on in a consulting, executive coaching role, Tucker had a full-circle moment.

“I saw a lot of myself in Maddie,” Tucker said. “I felt compelled to do the same for Maddie that Diane did for me. I felt very strongly that, as women, we need to empower each other to do things.”

Tucker will help Martin and Deaver learn the ins and outs of running a program. But Tucker is clear: She’s not here to run the show. She’s there to validate to Martin and Deaver what she hopes they already know: They have what it takes to coach at this level.

“They have this incredible energy,” Tucker said. “Their loyalty to their team and university and the desire to strengthen the game are very clear. They’re interested in learning, growing and challenging themselves to not run away from a difficult situation. They stepped up with courage, conviction and enthusiasm.”

The Runnin’ Bulldogs have bought in. It can be challenging for players to see former teammates as coaches — an early concern of Deaver’s. But that’s melted away over the course of the fall.

“I played with a lot of these girls for so long,” Deaver said. “It was a quick turnaround. I didn’t expect to be a coach before it happened. The team has really embraced the difference in roles. They do a good job of calling us ‘coach’ and respecting the position we are in. It wasn’t as hard as it sounded at first.”

It turns out the youth may be a secret weapon.

“This is my sixth year in the Boiling Springs,” Martin said. “I know a thing or two about it. I think it helps with recruiting, and there is a lot of good that comes from being able to have open conversations with players if they are struggling on and off the field. I am very relatable to them.”

Martin and Deaver were part of the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ on-field success last season, leading the program to a record 10 wins, including a spot in the Big South semifinals. Now on the sidelines, both want to continue to build.

“We got a glimpse of what success was like for the first time,” Martin said. “We have so much momentum from last season. Nothing is going to be easy. You have to be really bought in. Coach Tucker has instilled that in them as well.”

Goodrich is all in, too, and he believes his new hiring may not be the first surprise for Gardner-Webb women’s lacrosse this season.

“Maddie and Lauren relate so well to our student-athletes as a team and the culture,” Goodrich said. “They complement each other offensively and defensively. You combine that with the knowledge and experience that Janine brings to the table. I’m not putting a ceiling on it. Anything is possible.”

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