Keller Selected As New Girls Soccer Coach At Ashland

Ken Hamwey Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
May, 2020
Article Body: 

Dan Keller is only 24 years old but he’s got the proper credentials to lead the Ashland High girls soccer team.
The Northboro native was an all-star player at the high school level and he’s coached two years of junior-varsity soccer — one at Algonquin Regional and the other at Ashland High last season. He’s also coached boys and girls in the under-6 and under-8 categories in a youth/club program in Southboro.
But, more importantly, Keller has a dynamic outlook. He’s enthusiastic and upbeat and his approach is genuinely positive. He’s also a motivator who believes in a strong work ethic. Selecting Keller seems logical. The new coach knows the players and he’s familiar with the team’s background and the Tri Valley League.
The Clockers haven’t qualified for the playoffs for the last three years but Keller hopes to change that situation.
“We want to qualify for the tourney but the most important thing is to build a culture that’s positive,’’ Keller said. “I’ll stress staying positive and staying together. We want student-athletes to share good news and to enjoy their athletic experience.’’
Keller’s competitive philosophy focuses on helping his players reach their potential and to make sure they’re having fun. “If those two things occur, then winning will follow,’’ he emphasized.
Keller was hired in late February after one interview where he was quizzed by an eight-member panel that included parents, coaches, players and administrators. He met with his prospective players in March.
Ashland will have seven experienced returnees and five of them are captains. They include midfielders Maddie English, Elaine Jones, Sofia Shepard and Kaitlin Merson and forward Allie Loughlin. “They’re styles of leadership vary,’’ said Keller, who teaches English at the Ashland Middle School. “Some lead by example and some lead by being vocal. Overall, they’re skilled, athletic, and fundamentally and technically sound.’’
Keller’s on-the-field style is possession soccer and he’s a proponent of hard-nose tackling on defense. “A coach’s style of play often depends on the type of players available,’’ he said. “I’m a fan of keeping the ball on the ground because it’s easier to control. On defense, I like a competitive approach — don’t be afraid of the ball or your opponent.’’
When he guided Ashland’s jayvees last year, Keller’s team played .500 ball. The role of a junior-varsity coach primarily is to prepare players for the varsity level but Keller expanded that concept. “I pushed players as hard as they wished,’’ he said. “Hard work and a positive mindset were stressed but my job was really about helping players improve their skills, to develop a positive approach and to teach them how to win.’’
Ashland Athletic Director Stephen Marks played a major role in Keller’s hiring and he’s impressed with his new coach’s methods. “We’re thrilled having Dan as our coach,’’ Marks said. “His enthusiasm, experience, positivity, and vision for building a sustainable program made him stand out from a very competitive pool of candidates. We’re excited for Dan, the girls, and the community. We’re looking forward to seeing the girls compete this fall.’’
Keller is quick to laud Marks’ support and encouragement. “Stephen is 100 percent behind our program and he really transmits enthusiasm,’’ Keller said. “He’s supportive of all of Ashland’s teams.’’
Keller is very familiar with the TVL’s Large Division teams and he’s acutely aware that every game will be a battle. “The league is tremendously competitive,’’ he noted. “It’s strong from top to bottom, the coaches are top-notch and traditional programs like Holliston, Hopkinton and Westwood have lots of talent.’’
A 2014 graduate of Algonquin, Keller played four years of varsity soccer. A forward, he was captain as a senior and was an all-star in the Mid Wach A League. He also was a Central Mass. all-star. “I played as a freshman on a team that was Central Mass. champs and also played that year in the State semifinal where we lost to Ludlow,’’ Keller recalled.
Playing one year of varsity soccer as a freshman at Springfield College, Keller left the program to devote more time to academics. An education major, his focus was in English.
One coach who has left an indelible impression on Keller is Scott Taggart, the retired girls soccer coach at Algonquin. “He coached for 15 years and won a State title,’’ Keller recalled. “He’s a role model, not only as a coach, but also as a person. He’s been so instrumental for me, always offering good advice.’’
Keller is a young coach who’s sure to accept advice from time to time. But, his maturity and his approach is spot on when he discusses the attributes he prefers when assembling a roster.
“I want prospective players to have a positive mindset, a strong work ethic, leadership ability, and strong skills,’’ Keller said. “Being fundamentally and technically sound is a plus and being resilient when adversity strikes is another asset.’’
Dan Keller knows the value of team chemistry in soccer and he’s acutely aware of the ingredients needed that produce success.