By: Steven Miller – Staff Writer
Sitting above Baujan Field on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, senior midfielder Haley Keller recalled the crippling injury that sidelined her for the remainder of the season.
“I was reaching for a ball that was about to go out of bounds,” Keller said of the event that had occurred against George Mason University Oct. 12.
“I landed awkwardly on my leg and my knee just buckled,” she said.
Her fractured patella required immediate surgery and prematurely ended her collegiate soccer career. It came as a devastating blow to the team, which is looking to make a run in the upcoming A-10 tournament.
“It was heartbreaking when her injury happened, though we’ve adjusted well,” forward and fellow senior Kelsey Smigel said.
Smigel has not only played with Keller all four years here at Dayton, she is also her roommate.
“[Keller] was as good as anyone out there, and we’re looking forward to her recovery,” Smigel said.
In her three-game absence since the injury, the team has gone 2-1, beating Fordham University and the University of Richmond and falling to La Salle University. On Friday, the team travels to George Washington University for its second-to-last A-10 matchup before the conference tournament Nov. 6-9 hosted at Baujan Field.
With the team’s depth and talent up and down the roster, Keller’s absence has been tougher emotionally than strategically.
The team has had to step up in Keller’s absence.
“The adjustment has been pretty smooth,” head coach Mike Tucker, who has coached Keller every year at UD, said.
“It would have been more challenging if other players weren’t healthy right now,” he said.
Earlier in the season, Dayton had several others go out with injuries, but most have returned in recent weeks in excellent form. Specifically, redshirt freshman forward Libby Leedom has stepped up to the task.
“Libby is doing an excellent job,” Smigel said.
Leedom has taken over Keller’s spot as the starting center midfielder.
“That was really the best spot on the field for us,” Tucker said.
“Haley was so quiet, and she completely led by example on the field. She had no other gear but ‘all-out,’” Tucker said. “There were many games last year when walking out there we thought she was our best player. To not have her out there on senior day was just heartbreaking.”
Keller shared some of her greatest memories of her time as a Flyer soccer star, including winning the A-10 tournament as a freshman.
Up until her injury, Keller had actually played in every game since the start of her first season.
She said that she will miss traveling with the team and being together with the unit, which brought forth some of the best memories from her career.
Looking ahead, Keller plans to keep up with school, hoping to graduate in May 2015.
A biology major, Keller is excited for her future in graduate school or a career.
As part of an extremely talented squad over the last four years, it’s tough for her teammates, especially for Keller, watching from the sidelines for the close of her senior season.
“Obviously, I wasn’t planning to go out like this,” Keller said.
In her four years at Dayton, Keller played in a total of 75 games, scoring six goals and recording16 points. However, her contribution to the team extended far beyond her statistics.
She has no regrets.
“I’ve made the most of it,” she said.