After 25 years coaching Blaine soccer and 16 years as the varsity girls soccer coach, Dan Steelquist felt the time was right to hand over the reins. Kelly Tuski will take over as head coach this fall.
“The program can use some fresh ideas and fresh energy, and Kelly will definitely bring that,” Steelquist said. “I’m really excited that she’ll be taking over, and I think she can take the program to the next level.”
Athletic director Wayne Vezzetti said Blaine is losing one of its best coaches but recognized that Tuski is perfect for the job.
“(Steelquist) has a soccer mind, and he was very good at what he did. He was great not only as a coach, but also as a mentor, preparing the girls to be successful in the field but also showing them how to be good people when they venture off into the real world,” Vezzetti said. “You couldn’t ask for a better person to coach the kids.”
As a science teacher at the middle school, Steelquist taught many of his players before coaching them in high school, which meant he knew most of them before the start of each season and they could find him on campus during the day.
“Coaching in a school setting to me has been a real privilege,” he said. “To be able to connect with the kids outside of the classroom, to go beyond the x’s and o’s and wins and losses to learn about bigger life lessons – I really enjoyed that aspect. That’s what I’ll miss the most. I’m sure it will be a challenge to not be involved this fall.”
On the other hand, Steelquist said he’s looking forward to being a fan without all that goes along with being a coach.
“I’m a huge fan, and as a coach I had the best seat in the house, but when you’re coaching, you’re constantly thinking about the game. You invest a lot of time and mental energy into it behind the scenes, as any coach will tell you,” Steelquist said. “I’m also looking forward to spending more time with my wife and visiting my kids, who are in college.”
Steelquist said the soccer program is healthy right now, which makes it a good time for a change of leadership.
“Knowing that the program is in good hands gives me peace of mind. We’re back in 1A where we belong, Kelly will be a great coach and there’s a lot of community support,” Steelquist said.
Blaine moved from 2A to 1A last fall. The Borderites still compete with many larger 2A teams during the regular season, but in the post season they only face schools of a similar size.
“That makes our playoff prospects better and it makes the whole season more exciting,” Steelquist said.
Last year, the Borderites went 7–11–4 and missed the state tournament by one game. The leading goal scorers were Elizabeth Berry and Hope Wilkett, both of whom graduate this month. Replacing them and senior goalkeepers Shirin Roth-Lerner and Anna Hewitt will be a challenge for Tuski, but Vezzetti said he thinks she’s up to the task.
“She did a great job helping Dan (Steelquist) as an assistant coach. She understands the game very well and she played at a high level. I think she’ll be able to take the team far,” Vezzetti said.
Tuski played soccer at Gonzaga University in Spokane for two years.