The Glacier Wolfpack is reaching into the upper echelon of coaching prowess to bring new leadership to the girls soccer team. On Feb. 7, Glacier High School Activities Director Mark Dennehy announced that former Carroll College coach Doug Mello had been selected as the new head girls coach, pending school board approval.
“Doug brings a wealth of experiences to the position as well as a passion for soccer that is infectious. Doug has started programs throughout his career and is quite knowledgeable about program development,” Dennehy said in a press release. “He is keenly aware of club programs in the valley and throughout the state and country and is well versed at coaching all levels of student-athletes. We are excited to have Doug become a member of the Pack!”
Mello brings a veritable wealth of coaching experience to Kalispell. He first started coaching in the collegiate ranks at Aquinas College at the age of 20, making him the youngest collegiate head coach in any sport. In all, Mello has been at the helm of six different programs, starting five from scratch, including the Carroll Fighting Saints in 2014. He retired from coaching full time following the 2022 season.
“After 45 years of collegiate and professional coaching, I didn’t want to leave the game,” Mello told the Beacon. “It was really hard to give up the college game — I love my team there — but to be able to get up to my cabin in Eureka and move on, the time was just right.”
Mello heard that the position with the Wolfpack had opened up, following Damien Blackburn’s departure after two seasons, and “jumped at the opportunity.”
“I retired from Carroll, but not from soccer,” he said.
During his career, Mello coached nationally ranked men’s and women’s teams, amassing a collegiate record number of matches coached — 1,299. He is the only college coach to have won more than 400 men’s matches and more than 275 women’s matches.
Despite pages (including a Wikipedia page) of professional accolades, Mello sees the move to high school as an exciting challenge, not a step down the competitive ladder.
“Coaching soccer is coaching soccer,” he said. “This is a nice squad of ladies who have some truly great players returning. Having been around the block a few times with soccer, I feel that I”m on the cutting edge of tactics and techniques that will help them reinvent themselves and move forward.”
During the 2022 and 2021 seasons, the Wolfpack went 3-11 and 6-7-1 respectively, on the heels of the program’s first state championship in 2020 under former coach Brenden Byrd.
The Wolfpack will be returning one of the top players in Montana last year, current junior Reagan Brisendine, who tied for the most Class AA goals with 33. Another returning player, Callsta Wroble, was third in the state in assists.
For Brisendine, Mello will be the third head coach she’s worked with at Glacier, and she acknowledges the difficulty that comes with any transition.
“Change can be hard and having to adjust after learning a whole new type of playing style will be tough, but I am still very excited because I know our team can make it work,” Brisendine said, adding that she has high hopes to make it far into the postseason in her senior year. “Also, with him having experience coaching at the collegiate level, I hope he can help any of the girls who want to take their soccer career to the next level.”
One of the main struggles for the Wolfpack last season was a spate of injuries, including to their starting goalkeeper.
“Obviously you can’t control injuries or how the other teams perform, but we’ll concentrate on being a competitive squad through hard work, and having a good attitude,” Mello said. “With that attitude and good effort, every time you step onto the pitch big things will happen. The winning part will take care of itself.”
“A big thing I stress is good team chemistry. I always tell my players that being good depends on being good teammates and playing well as a group,” he added. “This fall we’re going to put our best foot forward and look at helping these girls get another state title.”
Mello will succeed Coach Damien Blackburn, who spent the last two seasons leading the Wolfpack. Blackburn, who serves as the technical director for the Flathead Valley United, stepped down from his position with Glacier due to conflicts between the high school and club team schedules, according to Dennehy.
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