Even before Dan LaHatte attended high school, he was a fixture on the Dulaney soccer field.
He was a ball boy when his older brother Kevin played for the 2000 team that lost in the state semifinals and he was on the Lions JV in 2002 as a freshman before being called up to varsity for the postseason. That squad lost to River Hill, 1-0, in the state finals.
LaHatte played three years of varsity soccer at Dulaney and graduated in 2006.
He was the JV head coach for the squad from 2017 to 2019 after a stint as an assistant for Danny Skelton in 2015 and 2016.
Skelton left the head coaching position over the winter and LaHatte embraced the opportunity to coach at his alma mater.
Like other fall coaches in Baltimore County, he can’t get on the field with his players as coaches are instructing virtually from Sept. 8 through Oct. 23.
Under the plan unveiled by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association on Sept. 11, fall sports competition will be held from March 15 through May 8. Teams will hold a 20-day pre-season before the games begin.
Late last month, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announced Maryland high school sports could resume practice Oct. 7 with competition from Oct. 27 through Dec. 12, but there has been no official word from Baltimore County through today.
That means Dulaney’s quest for its first appearance in the state tournament’s final four since the 2002 finalists will have to wait.
Steve Shaw was the coach of that 2002 Dulaney team, which earned the school’s fourth straight regional title under him.
Earlier in that season, they hosted a tournament and defeated McDonogh in the morning and held a halftime lead over Calvert Hall, before falling in the second half. Calvert Hall finished 20-2-1 that season.
“We just had some fantastic talent and I think we like caught lightning in a bottle,” Shaw said.
He saw lightning on the horizon in LaHatte and promoted him.
“I pulled up Dan in the 2002 season as a freshman for our playoff run so he could get a sense and feel of what it was like,” Shaw said.
In 2003, LaHatte proved he was more than a talented midfielder.
“We lost our All-South [region] sweeper Dan Keppler early in the season against Patapsco and Dan LaHatte was a central midfielder and I needed defenders,” Shaw recalled. “We put him in as a sophomore and he had really never played defense before and he just smoothed it all out.”
The Lions were eliminated by Kenwood and the Bluebirds went on to win a state championship.
The maturity and influence LaHatte had on his teammates gave Shaw a sense he had coaching potential.
“He was never an overly emotional player, things didn’t bother him, but you could be asking questions and Dan is answering,” Shaw said. “You are talking scenarios and situations and Dan has got it figured out.”
LaHatte attended college at the University of Florida where he trained with the club soccer team as well as the club team in tennis. He was a captain for three of his four varsity seasons on the tennis team at Dulaney.
After graduation from Florida in 2010, LaHatte came back to Dulaney to help his former JV coach Jerry Tana.
“I got a year under my belt and kind of got back in the loop back in 2010 and enjoyed working with him and I reconnected with the school and the program and everything,” LaHatte said. “Then I went a different way, and I got into sports information and worked at Stevenson University for a year and then I was at UMBC.”
At UMBC, he had interaction with soccer coach Pete Caringi and volleyball coach Ian Blanchard, who coached Dulaney High to state volleyball titles in 1999 and 2000.
“I just started to get that itch to get in the classroom and get active,” LaHatte said.
After getting his Master of Arts in Teaching from UMBC in 2015 he got an opportunity as a substitute at Dulaney and is now a social studies teacher teaching American government, U.S. history and world history.
“I knew I couldn’t just satisfy myself with teaching, but I needed to get on the soccer field and hopefully be able to positively influence some young men in that capacity as well,” he said.
The lack in-person interaction hasn’t diminished the enthusiasm for the Springdale resident.
“I’m really excited because I’ve worked with 100 percent of the juniors and seniors and the JV,” LaHatte said. “I think it’s a pretty balanced group. There are a lot of seniors, but there are a lot of really hungry juniors.”
He has two key returning seniors who he will depend on heavily.
“At the top end of the pitch, Kyle Wells, and in the back end in the defense is our goalkeeper Connor Culp,” he said. “They have done so well in the last two or three years to passionately pursue their goal on and off the field.”
Culp plans to play collegiately at Eastern University in Pennsylvania.
LaHatte is also excited about senior midfielder Jacob Margolis.
“He is a quintessential student-athlete, a guy who came in as a freshman, kind of quiet, but has really realized his abilities and really developed some great leadership skills as well,” LaHatte said.
Another goal of LaHatte is to build a great community atmosphere that shares the love he has for Dulaney High.
“We have a name at Dulaney, Dulaney soccer, but really we all just have something in common and that is we live in this area and we are passionate about what we do,” he said. “It’s really important to maintain and build that community, so that way when we can get together we are able to really connect and achieve some of our athletic goals as well as academics as well.”
Shaw also emphasized community and family involvement and he made time for younger players from the Cockeysville travel program when he was at the helm.
“We used to do Dulaney soccer day and we would bring out everybody on a Saturday and we would have an early morning game and we would bring guys out on the field and we would do stuff with them,” said Shaw, who still coaches the Cockeysville U-18 and U-12 travel teams. “All these young guys, Dan and a bunch of other younger brothers, I looked at them like, ‘Man these guys are going to win a state championship.’”
LaHatte coached one of Shaw’s sons in 2018 and 2019.
“That is pretty awesome to have a guy that you coached is now coaching your son,” Shaw said.
LaHatte is excited to follow in the footsteps of the coaches he was most familiar with at Dulaney.
“It’s really an honor to be able to take on this position and hopefully carry on those traditions from the ’90s with coach Lafferty and the 2000s with coach Shaw,” LaHatte said. “[Shaw] is still such an inspiration for me and he’s such a positive impact for our community. He’s still in the building and he’s able to help us out in so many ways to connect with the rec councils and provide that kind of historic spark and link as well.”