Dr. Niehoff Inducted into Connecticut Field Hockey Hall of Fame
by USA Field Hockey
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PLANTSVILLE, Conn. – On September 12, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) honored the achievements of field hockey athletes, coaches and contributors at their annual Connecticut Field Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Celebration. Held at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville, Conn., the 2021 class of honorees included High School Player honorees Melissa McDonald Arora, Michaela Lovino Breakell and Cheryl Torino Canada, High School Coach honoree Deirdre Hynes, College Player honoree Cari Hills, Umpire honoree George E. Longyear, Jr. and Honorary Member Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff. Niehoff started her career as a teacher and field hockey coach in Connecticut and is now the Executive Director of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and current member of USA Field Hockey’s Board of Directors.
The Connecticut Field Hockey Hall of Fame was founded in 1999 to establish a venue to recognize, honor and perpetuate the memory of those who have contributed to the enhancement of field hockey in Connecticut. These inductees have distinguished themselves through excellence and helped bring acclaim, honor and dedication to Connecticut field hockey.
USA Field Hockey staff members Sally Goggin, National Development Director; Lisa McCoy, Director of Nexus and International Events; and Liz Tchou, Senior Manager of Coach Education and Learning, attended the event to support all the honorees and strengthen the relationship with the Connecticut field hockey community. For the USA Field Hockey staff, attending the Connecticut Hall of Fame and getting to meet and congratulate the inductees was an incredible experience and privilege. Connecticut has a rich history and tradition of field hockey and clearly the sport is in very good hands.
“The best part of our role at USA Field Hockey is getting to know and work with people from around the country who so generously share their passion and gifts with others and make field hockey the greatest game,” stated Goggin. “We all know that field hockey is not just fun. It’s also a vehicle to experience the journey of life, where friendships are formed, lessons are learned and hard work, integrity, teamwork, commitment, sportsmanship and compassion is taught, modeled and practiced. Every current and past honoree and all the administrators, family and friends in the room, make up the fabric or our great game and we feel lucky to know them.”
“As USA Field Hockey works to develop a system of regional representation in the form of state chapters, it’s clear that we can all learn so much from each other, including how to build and celebrate tradition and honor our sport’s outstanding leaders,” continued Goggin. “USA Field Hockey looks forward to increased collaboration to support the great work and leaders to help fuel continued growth and development of field hockey as a sport for all, a sport for life.”
USA Field Hockey would like to give a special thank you to Dan Scavone, CIAC Officials Association Director; Babby Nuhn, North Branford High School Head Coach and Connecticut High School Coaches Association (CHSCA) Executive Board member; Maureen Perkins, Glastonbury High School Head Coach; Cookie Bromage, retired coach of 52 years at Enfield High School and Field Hockey Committee member; as well as Anne Parmenter, the Head Field Hockey Coach at Trinity College Head Coach and National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) president.
“It is my honor to serve the sport of field hockey in Connecticut as the CIAC Sport Administrator,” said Scavone. “I offer my most sincere congratulations to this year’s inductees to the Connecticut Field Hockey Hall of Fame. Their accomplishments and contributions to the sport are both unique and exceptional. I am looking forward to our CIAC State Tournament this year allowing the next generation of players, coaches and officials to achieve similar successes.”
In her time at Cheshire High School, Melissa McDonald Arora was a 4-year varsity athlete and helped her team to two state championships. She was honored with All-League and All-State Awards and was named team MVP her senior year while tallying 40 goals and 15 assists to close out her career. Arora went on to play field hockey at the University of Connecticut for legendary coach, Nancy Stevens. As a Scholar-Athlete, she graduated with a degree in Communication Sciences in 1994 and earned he Masters in Elementary Education from Southern Connecticut State University in 1998. She is an avid golfer and is president of the LPGA Amateurs of Central Connecticut, a non-profit organization designed to grow the game of gold for women.
Michaela Lovino Breakell was a 4-year varsity letter-winner at Wamogo High School, where she earned many awards and honors her final two seasons. She excelled at basketball and softball as well, earning Wamogo Athlete of the Year Award. After graduating from Southern Connecticut State University, Breakell returned to her alma mater and is in her fourth season as head coach.
Cheryl Torino Canada earned a scholarship to play Division I field hockey at Quinnipiac University for head coach, Becca Main. She was promoted to Associate head coach in 2014. Over her tenure, Torino Canada worked as a USA Field Hockey Futures coach for more than 10 years and started recently working as the director and head coach for the James Vick Foundation, which is an organization that offers free sports programming, leagues and resources for young men and women in the community for basketball, lacrosse, soccer, and now field hockey.
Deirdre Hynes started coaching field hockey at Wilton High School in the fall of 2000 where she inherited a team that went 1-9-1 their previous season. By 2003, Wilton made it to the Class M State Final. In 2015, the team went undefeated and took home the Class L State Championship and Hynes was named the Connecticut High School Coaches Association “Outstanding Coach of the Year” to cap off a tremendous career with Wilton field hockey.
Cari Hills started her playing career at New Canaan High School and continued her field hockey and lacrosse careers at Cornell University, where she earned a degree in Economics in 1998, and became the scoring leader in both sports. Hills and her daughters, Polly and Lucy, support her through her work with the New Canaan Youth Field Hockey Program.
George Longyear, Jr., a native of New Haven, Conn., umpired both field hockey and lacrosse throughout his career and was known for being consistent, fair and attentive. He was honored with the “Outstanding Officials Award” by the Connecticut Field Hockey Coaches Association in 2012. Outside of this officiating life, Longyear works as the Director of Administrative Services at Yale University.
Dr. Karissa Niehoff is currently the Executive Director of the NFHS, USA Field Hockey Board Member and serves as USA Field Hockey’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee Chair. As a champion of lifelong learning and an inspirational leader, Dr. Niehoff has worked to influence the athletic experiences of young men and women across Connecticut and the country over the course of her career. Since 1989, Dr. Niehoff has worked in public education and education-based athletics, serving as a teacher, coach, athletic director, principle and state association executive director. In 2018, she was hired as the first female executive director of the NFHS and is only the sixth person in the 101 years of the organization to hold the position on a full-time basis. She is currently the only female chief executive officer among the leaders of the national organizations for high school college and professional sports. Dr. Niehoff earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts and earned a masters from Southern Connecticut State University. It is a honor to have Niehoff be a part of the USA Field Hockey Family.
“No matter what competition we shared with one another, we were always good colleagues, and in the sport of field hockey, I think it's a unique culture that exists that I have not felt at this level in other sports,” said Niehoff, during her Hall of Fame acceptance speech. “There is something special about this game.”