It really isn't quite that casual, as a look at Lynchburg's roster reveals. Sixteen of the 23-man squad are from New Jersey, with a sprinkling from New York and Pennsylvania. Only two players are from Virginia. "The college started attracting a lot of students from the North in the '60s," says Shellenberger, "and that was to my benefit, because New Jersey is a hotbed of youth soccer. We don't recruit foreign players, like Clemson and Howard do, from Africa and the Caribbean. When we say 'foreign player,' we mean Bergen County." Shellenberger and Assistant Coach George Grzenda, who just happens to be from Trenton, make one recruiting trip a year to Tenafly, New Brunswick and Ridgewood. "I'm the master of soft-sell on the road," says Shellenberger. "After all, I've got nothing to offer them except playing soccer." That, and Lynchburg's reputation for excellence on the field.
Shellenberger is also Lynchburg's athletic director. "So I avoid one of the prime complaints of soccer coaches," he says. "I make sure soccer gets a good budget." He also coaches golf and teaches a heavy load of five phys ed courses.
"I came here as a temporary basketball and track coach in 1952 and stayed on. Maybe I'm crazy," says Shellenberger. He started soccer at Lynchburg in 1954. "We had dropped football in the '30s, and our only fall sport then was cross-country."
Art Kraus, now a Roanoke businessman, played for one of Shellenberger's teams in the '50s. "We Virginia boys had never seen a soccer ball," he said last week. "We were all high school football players then, and the way we played soccer was that if you didn't get the ball, you got the man. Our games looked like World War II."
Against Radford, the current edition of Lynchburg soccer looked as smooth as any college team in the country. Stymied for the first 10 minutes by the hard-charging, free-tackling style used by Radford, the Hornets pulled themselves together and scored their first goal at the 12-minute mark. Shellenberger employs a 5-3-2 configuration, using the inside forwards as galloping midfielders when necessary. It's about like driving an Edsel onto the Star Wars set.
"It worked for 23 years, and it's simple," Shellenberger says. "Why change now? The players we get now are tremendously sophisticated. First, they're so much better at basic skills that it's sometimes frightening, and they all know so much about soccer. They get irritated with me. One of them will ask, 'Coach, do you think Shep Messing comes off the line too far in a one-on-one?' and I have to ask, 'Who's Shep Messing?' Once I get past Pel�, I'm lost in the pro game."
Leading 2-0 at halftime and with his plaque stowed away under the bench, Shellenberger stood stiffly at the sideline, totally involved in the game, reprimanding a player for a missed shot, congratulating a midfielder on a good tackle. He would often pull out a boy and give him a mini-clinic on the sideline. His harshest words were, "Judas Priest, get it through the hole, son." That's Shellenberger riled up.
"The secret of winning so many games," he says, "is to stay healthy. You've got to last a long time for that. And have fun. Serious fun. Don't get in over your head and blow out your teams for championships."
In the end, the Hornets walloped Radford 6-1. On Saturday they went on the road and tied tough and skilled William & Mary 1-1. The record: 253-101-24. No big deal at all if you're Bill Shellenberger. But if you're anyone else in college soccer, chances are that yours is one of the congratulatory telegrams or letters piled on the coach's desk.