Keeley Hagen has spent her playing and coaching career at well-established women’s college soccer programs.
Yet for her first head coaching job, the 2001 Carmel High School graduate is taking over at Colorado State, which began play in 2013.
“One of the exciting things is it’s a young program and has a lot of potential,” Hagen said. “I feel like we have the support and excitement. Why not win a conference championship?”
The Rams, who play in the Mountain West, will open the season Aug. 19 at Colorado.
Hagen, 38, was a three-time All-American at the University of Tennessee, winning Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2003-04.
Hagen played for Angela Kelly at Tennessee and eventually joined Kelly’s staff. She was a Tennessee student assistant coach in 2005 and then became a full-time interim assistant for the 2007 NCAA Tournament when an assistant coach took a leave to have a baby. Hagen became a full-time assistant in 2008.
“I had no idea I was going to be in coaching and fell into the position at Tennessee,” Hagen said. “I really love the game and love working with the student/athletes and helping them grow into strong young women and not just good soccer players. As you grow over the years in the profession, it definitely has its everyday challenges, so I enjoy that as well. Obviously taking over a program that is fairly new is going to provide challenges, but I look at those challenges as opportunities.”
Hagen, whose maiden name is Dowling, played professional soccer for two years in Sweden and then three years with the Women’s Professional Soccer league. She helped New Jersey’s Sky Blue FC win the league championship in 2009. During her three years with WPS, she was a Tennessee assistant. The league folded in 2012.
Hagen then moved with Kelly when Kelly took the University of Texas job after the 2011 season.
“I wasn’t just going to take any head coaching job,” said Hagen, who led Carmel to the IHSAA state title in 2000 and was named the state’s player of the year. “I was in a good spot being an assistant and being in big-time programs. It was definitely going to take the right fit and the right time. Obviously, Colorado State checked all those boxes.”
Hagen said she was impressed with the leadership of athletic director Joe Parker, who had been with several other athletic departments.
“He knows the athletic directors at Texas,” Hagen said. “I felt he was supporting me and taking a chance on me not ever being a head coach. That was special from the get-go.”
The second factor was the ability to recruit players to Fort Collins, which Hagen described as a beautiful campus. Another factor that helped in her decision to take the job is her husband’s family lives near Denver.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 season was moved to the spring of 2021 and the Rams finished 2-4-1.
“We’ve had one winning season in 2019 (12-5-3) and those players are still on our roster,” she said. “I feel we can continue to build on that. The state of Colorado has some really good talent.”
Along with Kelly, Hagen said she has a plethora of valuable coaching mentors she can call on for advice.
Hagen’s mother, Kim TenBrink, teaches physical education at Carmel High School. One of Hagen’s assistant coaches, Eric Masters, is a former CHS goaltender.
“He’s a year older than me and we reconnected a few years ago,” Hagen said. “It’s kind of a neat story in itself because my mom was his PE teacher.”
Masters was previously an assistant at the University of North Dakota.