400 wins a milestone, not a capstone for Dr. Todd Olsen

Dr. Todd Olsen has won 400 games as the Lynchburg women's soccer head coach.

Lynchburg, Va. -- That rainy Friday evening, the first of the month, felt special to Dr. Todd Olsen, but not in the way it would have for most veteran coaches.

Now in his 24th season as head coach of Lynchburg College women's soccer team, Olsen's Hornets won a 2-0 thriller, scoring twice in the final five minutes to start the year with a milestone victory for their mentor, the 400th of Olsen's tenure at LC.

But Olsen never has been concerned with milestones. It was win No. 1 of the season, not No. 400 of a career, that made the win regardable.

The win, and the three that have followed in Lynchburg's 4-0 start to the 2017 season, are steps toward a much greater goal, one that is on every player's and coach's wish list: the NCAA Division III championship.

And at the beginning of a season, every program in the country has that goal. The formula is simple: win more early, and your chances are better late.

"Before the season, there's always that hope eternal," Olsen said, evoking the oft-quoted Alexander Pope line. "You always feel like you have a chance to win a national championship."

As for milestones, they can take a back seat.

"We try not to think about it too much," Olsen said. "I'm not particularly interested in numbers and things like that. I'm interested in what we build and the woman that leaves here after four years."

Without those women, he added, the wins wouldn't add up.

Take, for example, the 1997 LC women's soccer team that will enter Lynchburg's Athletic Hall of Fame this fall. That group won the first of the program's 13 Old Dominion Athletic Conference titles, but Olsen said he began to feel his own mark on the women who have passed through the program in the 20 years since.

And that, he added, is more important than any numbers on a scoreboard.

"My mission is to empower women so that when they leave here, they go out and they become a force," he said, "that when they leave here, there is no ceiling for them accomplishing what they want to accomplish."

But Olsen allowed that success on the field helps. The 1997 ODAC title led to the program's first NCAA tournament win three seasons later. That success led to the first Elite Eight appearance in 2007, the first Final Four in 2009, and eventually, the 2014 Division III national championship.

"Part of it is, you have to win to do that," he said. "It's hard to empower them if you're 0-20. Winning gives them supreme confidence, and success breeds success."

Hardship also plays its own role. Olsen will be the first to tell you that his teams haven't only won 404 matches; they lost 88 matches as well.

"It's that adversity that helps you grow as a coach, and hopefully you become a better coach each year when you take the field," Olsen said.

And learning more from all the matches, win, lose, or draw, is what keeps Olsen and his program striving for more.

The next opportunity -- the one for win No. 5, not win No. 405 -- will come Saturday, Sept. 16 at Salem College in Winston-Salem, N.C., at noon.


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