Tracy Keefer transitioned Dacula’s softball program from slowpitch to fastpitch in the late 1990s. Her replacement as head coach was part of that process.
The high school has hired 1999 Dacula grad Kelli Poff to replace Keefer, who won more than 350 games with the program between 1996 and 2018. The Falcons only played slowpitch when Poff was a freshman, then she was on their first three fastpitch teams, the last advancing to the final eight of the state tournament in Columbus.
She was the team’s only experienced pitcher her sophomore and junior seasons before sharing the role with move-in Kera Croteau as a senior.
“It’s surreal,” Poff said of returning to Dacula as head coach. “It’s definitely surreal to coach on the field you played on. It’s pretty insane. It’s just so full circle. I feel like I poured so much of myself into that program as a player. And the passion I already have for Dacula and the respect I have for Coach Keefer and everything she did for that program so long.
“It’s so humbling to be part of that program. … I feel like I’m stepping into big shoes, but she was also the one that taught me. I feel like I’m very similar to her in a lot of ways, but also somewhat different.”
Poff has been head coach the past two seasons at Bacon County, where she won a region championship and took the team to the final stage of the state playoffs in Columbus. That stint was preceded by seven seasons as head coach at Woodland-Stockbridge, where she won four region titles and made the state playoffs each year. Her first head coaching job was at West Orange High in Winter Haven, Fla., in 2006-07. She earned conference coach of the year honors in her only season there.
She played college softball at Darton and West Georgia, working as a Carrollton High assistant during her college career. She also worked for a year as a coach and instructor at Champions Sports Complex, an Orlando, Fla., facility owned by former major leaguer Barry Larkin.
“We are excited about the future of the program under Coach Poff,” Dacula athletic and activities director Zach Smith said. “She has a desire to build on the strength and history of the program. She is a Dacula High graduate and alumna of the program. She has a vested interest in the development of our student-athletes. Coach Poff brings with her playoff experience as a head coach, a vision for the program and strong leadership skills.”
Poff’s first coaching staff at Dacula features one holdover from Keefer’s staff, pitching coach Molly Busbee Poss. Those two will be joined by veteran coach Bobby Burford, a longtime Loganville assistant and former head coach at Monroe Area, and Calli Young, who recently finished a four-year college career at Memphis.
“I think the community has been awesome since I came on board,” Poff said. “I feel like I’m really trying to bridge the gap, really bringing the middle school program in and making them feel part of the program earlier on. I feel like the community has been outstanding. Everybody is just buying in. There’s a lot of excitement. I’m just thankful for that. And we have an outstanding coaching staff.”
THE POFF FILE
Name: Kelli Poff
New position: Head softball coach at Dacula
Former position: Head softball coach at Bacon County
Career record: 198-73
Education: Graduated from Dacula High School in 1999; earned degree in health and physical education from the University of West Georgia; earned master’s degree in health and physical education from Emporia State University
Background: Coached the past two seasons at Bacon County; previously was head coach for seven seasons at Woodland-Stockbridge; reached state playoffs every season at Woodland, winning three region titles; named conference coach of the year in one season as head coach at West Orange High in Winter Garden, Fla.; got her start in coaching at Carrollton High as a college student at West Georgia; played college softball at Darton and West Georgia; played at Dacula when school transitioned from slowpitch softball to fastpitch; was the Falcons’ only experienced pitcher in fastpitch until her senior season