The 2022 soccer season was a fantastic and memorable one, including a run to the state tournament, for longtime coach Dennis West and his Lynchburg-Clay Lady Mustangs. It also included West reaching the unprecedented milestone of recording his 500th career win as a soccer coach.
The Lady Mustangs’ tournament run ended Tuesday with a loss in the Division III state tournament semifinals with a 4-0 loss to Cincinnati Country Day.
The Lynchburg-Clay girls began their tournament run with a 9-0 win over Chesapeake. That win on Oct. 19 was the 500th in West’s long, highly-successful career.
On Oct. 24, Lynchburg-Clay defeated Albany Alexander, 7-1. On Oct. 27, the Mustangs won the district championship, 1-0 over Eastern Brown. In the regional semifinals, Lynchburg-Clay defeated North Adams, 1-0. It was 1-0 win over Grandview Heights that earned the Mustangs a regional championship and a place in the State Final Four.
West now has 504 coaching victories, all coming at Lynchburg-Clay High School.
West, 70, coached the Mustang boys soccer team for 19 seasons from 1999 to 2017. Over the course of those seasons, he amassed a record of 207-100-33. His teams won the Southern Hills Athletic Conference championship during nine of those seasons, with five of those seasons ending undefeated in league play. The Mustangs enjoyed a 35-game winning streak in league play during West’s tenure.
He was a nine-time SHAC Coach of the Year, won 15 sectional championships, coached two SHAC Player of the Year winners and 59 members of the All-SHAC team. West also coached 27 first team and 60 second team/honorable mention All-Southeast District players throughout his tenure, as well as eight All-Ohio players and one NSCAA Scholar All-American. He was voted Southeast District Coach of the Year in 2003 and was the 2017 recipient of the Ron Pinsenschaum Award.
West is currently in his 21st season as the head coach of the Lady Mustangs soccer team he began coaching in 2002. That means that from 2002 to 2017, West coached both the boys and girls simultaneously. While his tenure as the coach of the boys was extremely impressive, his resume as the coach of the girls is even more astounding.
West currently has a record of 297-80-34 as the head coach of the Lady Mustangs, good enough for ninth all-time in wins in the OHSAA record book for girls soccer. During his time with the Lady Mustangs, they have won 12 SHAC championships, finishing undefeated in league play 10 times. He currently has an 86-game unbeaten streak in league play dating back to 2010.
West, as coach of the Lady Mustangs, has been named SHAC Coach of the Year 10 times, has won 21 sectional championships, 10 district championships, and two regional championships. He has coached four SHAC Player of the Year winners and 77 All-SHAC players, along with 42 first team and 74 second team/honorable mention All-Southeast District players. He has coached 11 Southeast District Player of the Year winners, 16 All-Ohio players, and three NSCAA Scholar All-Americans.
He has been named Southeast District Coach of the Year seven times, earning honors in 2005, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. He was also named Ohio Division III Coach of the Year in 2015. He was the recipient of the 2015 Kim Mahoney Award and the 2018 OHSAA Southeast District Sportsmanship, Ethics, and Integrity Award.
West currently has a career record of 504-170-67 as a head varsity soccer coach, with all of those wins coming at Lynchburg-Clay.
For the boys team at Lynchburg-Clay, one of the advantages of not having a football team is that the best athletes tend to play soccer, West noted.
“It’s either volleyball or soccer for the girls, and some cross country,” West said. “We have girls who run cross country and play soccer, too. That’s not a problem. Or golf and soccer both. Chris Tipton is still helping me. When I took the boys’ job, I was at a baseball game watching one of my sons play. I got a call from the principal then here at the high school, and he asked me if I’d be interested in coaching the boys’ soccer team.
“The knowledge of soccer that I had (came) from watching my kids play in youth soccer up through junior high. I had no illusions that I knew the game very well. I told the principal I would take the job on one condition — that is if Chris Tipton comes in as my co-coach. I said, ‘we’ll split the check right down the middle.’ I said, ‘he knows soccer. He bleeds soccer.’ So, he came aboard and he stayed with me with the boys up until his oldest daughter got involved in youth soccer. His youngest daughter is a senior this year. She’s been a tremendous player for us. Chris stayed with me for a number of years. He left, then he came back and he’s been with me with the girls’ program now for quite a few years.
On the girls’ side, in 2002, that job came open and Daryl Mount, who’s a minister at the Pricetown Church of Christ now — I’d gone to school with Daryl, he’s two years younger than I am. He and I took the girls’ job and it worked out really well. We hit a stretch starting in 2011 where we have gone undefeated in the league nine times. During that stretch we were the only team to win the gold ball. We may have come in second twice, but we beat the teams that were undefeated. We kind of say, ‘the gold ball either goes to us or it doesn’t go to anybody.’
“Our undefeated streak in the league goes back to 2010,” West said. “We have been tied, I think, six times.”
Of the boys’ program, West said the last five years that he coached and the first five that his son, Jason West, coached, they never finished anywhere but first place.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” Dennis West said. “We’ve had great athletes. Our parents are unbelievable. I bet I could count on my hand the number of away games that we have had where we didn’t outnumber the home team’s fans and I’m including sectional, district, regional, you name it. We just have a tremendous following with our parents and grandparents and alumni. It’s unbelievable.
“It’s just been a fun place to coach. You get support, period.”
Despite the years-long domination by the Mustangs of the Southern Hills Athletic Conference, there is no animosity apparent, according to West.
“Jacob Alexander up at Fairfield is a great young coach,” West said. “He’s done some pretty terrific things, coaching both boys and girls. He started out a couple of years ago. He’s been doing some really good stuff up there. I enjoy working with the other coaches. We do stuff. We communicate with each other and give advice and seek advice. You just have to support one another.
“Soccer can put its hooks into you. I first took this job, I had no intention of coaching beyond the four years that my youngest son was in the program. Then he graduated and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll go another year.’ My wife has even given up asking if I’m going to coach again. It’s always, well, one more year. Now it’s 24 years later and here we are.
“When I say this might be it, I get younger players on the team (saying) ‘no, coach until I graduate,’” West continued. “Next year, I’m going to have my only granddaughter coming into the program.
“I’ve got two girls in this year’s senior class whose fathers I coached when I first started. Ryan Van Fleet was a soccer player who came into the program the same year as my youngest son and I’ve got two of his daughters, one is an all-league sophomore and the other should have been an all-league senior. They’ve been just playing great soccer. I’ve been around long enough that I’m getting the daughters of some of the ones I had when I started.”
Tyler Flora and Chris Hoppes write for the Record-Herald in Washington C.H.