Dennis West gains 400th career win

West has coached soccer at Lynchburg-Clay for nearly 20 seasons

By Stephen Forsha, Highland County Press
For nearly 20 years, Dennis West has led the Lynchburg-Clay soccer program — boys and girls — to great success and heights never dreamed of, and for all of the work he has put in, his teams throughout the years have rewarded him with wins — 400-plus, to be exact.

On Wednesday, Aug. 23, the Lynchburg-Clay Lady Mustangs soccer teams won 8-1 over the Fayetteville Lady Rockets en route to their second win of the season. That win was important in the standings as it gave the Lady Mustangs a win in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference. It also extended their SHAC streak without a loss to 45 consecutive games. But even more importantly, it was a milestone win for West, as it was his 400th career coaching win combined in the boys and girls soccer programs, with all the wins coming at LCHS.

Following the girls win, West continued to have wins added to his overall totals, with the boys teams also defeating Fayetteville by a 3-1 score, now giving West 401 wins and counting.

West gave credit to his players for the wins and success throughout his career that includes numerous conference, sectional and district championships for both programs, and last season, his Lady Mustangs team won the first regional championship in LC soccer history, allowing West to coach in the Division III State Semifinals.

“Truly, no, I never expected this,” West told The Highland County Press when asked if he anticipated this success nearly two decades ago. “I’m probably coaching now a lot longer than I ever dreamed I would be. I enjoy it. We’ve had great kids down through the years from this school district. It’s just been fun to be around them, and if anything, that’s the part of the coaching that makes it all worthwhile.

“It’s the kids and the relationships you have with them over the three or four years they’re in the program and seeing them four or five years later, 10 years, 20 years almost now and they’re still talking about the program and being a part of it. That is really a big part of the enjoyment of it.”

In his path to 400 wins at LC, West has 208 wins with the girls program and 192 wins with the boys program.

Since 2008, the LC boys program has been to either the district semifinals or district finals every season but one. In that same span, they’ve won 10 or more matches eight times, and more than 10 matches six times. The LC boys have won at least 12 matches in each of the past four seasons, including 14 wins in 2016 and 13 wins in ’15, as both of those teams reached the district finals.

With the LC girls program, they’ve won at least 11 matches in each of the past seven seasons (2010-16), winning a regional championship last year, and with that, they extended their district championship streak to four consecutive seasons. In three of the past four years, LC’s girls program has won 18 to 19 matches and have played in the regional finals three of those four seasons. In all but one season since 2008, the Lady Mustangs have played in no less than the district semifinals.

Seeing his teams achieve all they have during his 400 wins at LC, West spoke about the parts of the program not many are used to seeing — practices, conditioning and the many hours it takes for a program like Lynchburg-Clay to achieve the high success rate they’ve had, plus exceed the many high expectations earned by this program throughout the years.

“The practices sometimes get to be drudgery for the coaches and the kids, but you get to the end of the year and you realize these kids, these seniors, I may not see them for a long, long time,” West said. “That’s when it really hits that you’ve developed a relationship with those players and you’re going to miss them.

“It’s been 19 years with the boys this year and 16 with the girls program. Again, it’s great kids to work with. I’ve had some great people to work with in the coaching staff we’ve had down through the years. This is all a part of their achievements. It’s just been a package deal with the players and coaches. I had no idea I was going to be here this long into it.”

When West earned win No. 400, the soccer team signed a gold soccer ball and presented it to the head coach. He said that is just one of three soccer balls he’ll keep in his personal collection in his office. As he was thinking about the achievement, West said he likes to set goals and chase them, setting new ones along the way.

“Quite honestly, I like to set goals, but then you realize ‘well, I’ve reached that goal’ and you set a new one. I wanted to get to 300, and then all of a sudden we’ve had three or four years where we’ve just been winning like crazy – boys and girls programs, both – and here we are,” West said. “Coaching both teams, when they’re both successful like they are, that racks up some numbers real quick. The ball the girls all signed tonight will go in my office with two other very special soccer balls I’ve kept.

“One was our first district tournament championship, and the other one was the regional championship. It’s just been kind of funny that all three of those involved the girls program, but the boys program has contributed 192 of those 400 wins, so it’s been really a joint effort on both of those programs. I’m just happy.”