Ascend Field Hockey


Jackie Kane
Head Coach | Fairfield University Field Hockey

Head Coach Jackie Kane begins her 27th season with the Fairfield University field hockey program, serving as the team's head coach since the 1995 campaign after playing four seasons with the Stags from 1983-86. Kane played in or coached in more than 160 victories at Fairfield, including the 2001 Patriot League Championship title which sent the Stags to their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.  Recently in 2015 and again in 2017, the Stags made a statement in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, winning the league tournament and making two more appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

Kane has won more games than any other Fairfield field hockey coach, and she has led the team to a post-season conference tournament 12 times in 4 different conferences including the Patriot League, NEC, America East and the MAAC.  Over 60 players have earned All Conference accolades and an additional 20 have been recognized as All Region Players by the NFHCA. Kane's players have also excelled in the classroom. More than 80 Stags have earned National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) National Academic Team honors.  The field hockey team has been recognized by Fairfield University for the highest athletic team GPA for the 2016/17 academic year.  Kane graduated from the NCAA Women's Coaches Academy in 2006 and has a Level 2 Coaching Certification from USA Hockey. Coach Kane is also a certified Clifton Strength Finders Ambassador and will be sharing this knowledge during an interactive session with the athletes at Ascend Hockey Camp.

Chrissy Needham
Head Coach | Connecticut College

Chrissy Needham is entering her fifth season as the head coach of field hockey at Connecticut College. Prior to Connecticut College, she was head coach at Kenyon College and American International College.  In her eight years as a collegiate

head coach across NCAA Division II and III, Needham has coached ten All-conference selections including one Defensive Player of the Year and one Goalkeeper of the Year, as well as nine NFHCA All-Region selections. In addition, her teams have earned the NFHCA Academic Award in each of her eight seasons as a head coach and numerous individual players have earned NFHCA All-Academic Squad and NESCAC Fall All-Academic Team honors. As an assistant coach at the University of Massachusetts, she was part of two Atlantic-10 Championship teams who also advanced to the NCAA tournament twice.

A native of Killingworth, Conn., Needham was a three-time Big East conference champion and played in two NCAA Division I Final Fours as a student-athlete at the University of Connecticut. She was a four-time Big East Academic All-Star and NFHCA All Academic selection. Following college, she taught mathematics and coached field hockey at Greenwich High School, where her team won Connecticut’s CIAC Class L state championship in 2005 and 2006. As a high school head coach, Needham had a 42-3 record in two years and was recognized as CIAC Coach of the Year FCIAC Coach of the Year once.

Needham graduated from UConn with a Bachelor of Science in Education with a concentration in Mathematics in 2000 and a Master of Arts in Education in 2001.  She holds a United States Field Hockey Level II Coaching Certificate and is a graduate of the NCAA Women’s Coaches Academy.

Susan Ciufo
Head Coach | Stonehill College 

Susan Ciufo is in her third year as head coach of the Stonehill College field hockey program. Ciufo has maintained the high level of play for the program over her two seasons as head coach at Stonehill, guiding the Skyhawks to a 28-13 (.683) overall record and back to back NCAA Tournament appearances, reaching the national semifinal round in 2015. The Skyhawks are 18-6 (.750) in Northeast-10 Conference play over her first two seasons, winning the NE10 Tournament title in her first year as head coach in 2015.

Stonehill field hockey student-athletes have earned five All-America honors over her first two seasons, with Erika Kelly ’16 also collecting Longstreth/NFHCA Division II Player of the Year honors her senior year and current junior, Kacie Smith, marking her second straight student-athlete to collect Longstreth/NFHCA North Region Player of the Year accolades. The Skyhawks have earned eight All-NE10 honors under her guidance, with Kelly and Smith being named the NE10 Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016, respectively.  Stonehill’s field hockey student-athletes continue to perform in the classroom, with the team being named a ZAG/NFHCA National Academic Squad each of Ciufo’s first two years at the helm for having a team grade point average of 3.0 or higher. The Skyhawks have earned four NE10 Academic All-Conference awards over her two years, with recent graduate Sarah Morse, ’17, earning CoSIDA Academic All-America At Large honors and Stonehill’s Edward E. Martin Scholar-Athlete Award.

Ciufo took over as head coach at Stonehill following two seasons as assistant coach at her alma mater, Drexel University. During her two seasons as an assistant coach under long-time head coach Denise Zelenak at Drexel, Ciufo worked with both the forwards and goalkeepers, preparing practice plans and developing their individual skills for game day. She had a focus on breaking down game film and recruiting student-athletes from across the country. The Dragons posted a 23-15 (.605) overall record in her two seasons as an assistant coach, including a 6-6 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association, posting a pair of wins over nationally-ranked University of Iowa in 2013 and Temple University in 2014. Drexel earned a spot in the 2013 CAA semifinals, posting a 13-7 record overall, including 4-2 in the CAA. Prior to returning as an assistant coach with her alma mater, Ciufo served two seasons at Lehigh as assistant coach under Stacey Eversley, who formerly coached at NE10 member American International College. Ciufo was the Mountain Hawks recruiting coordinator and offensive specialist and served as interim head coach while Eversley was on maternity leave over the latter part of the 2012 season, gaining valuable experience in that role.

Ciufo has had experience with USA Field Hockey, both as a player and coach. She was a member of the USA Indoor National Team from 2011-2016, earning a gold medal at the 2013 Rohrmax Cup and a bronze medal at the 2014 Pan Am Cup. Ciufo has been a USA Regional and National Futures Tournament selector since 2013, was an assistant coach with USA New Jersey Junior High Performance in 2011 and USA Pennsylvania High Performance in 2015. She has also earned coaching experience as head coach of Mystx Field Hockey Club’s U-19 squad.

Ciufo is a 2011 graduate of Drexel, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in education, also receiving a Master’s Degree in sports management from Drexel in 2015. She was a four-year starter for the Dragons field hockey program and ranks second in program history with 58 goals and 140 points in 84 career games. She was a four-time CAA Scholar-Athlete honoree and was named first team All-CAA and first team Regional All-American as a sophomore, junior and senior. In 2008, Ciufo set the NCAA record with a 22 game point streak and received third team All-America honors. She helped the 2009 Dragons earn an at large bid in the 2009 NCAA Tournament after winning the CAA regular season championship.

Caroline Nelson-Nichols
Head Coach | Columbia University

Former U.S. National Team member and two-time Olympian Caroline Nelson-Nichols completed her third season as Columbia's head coach and sixth with the University in 2017. Nelson-Nichols was named head coach of the Columbia field hockey program in May of 2015 after spending three years on the sidelines as an assistant coach. She became the fourth coach in program history.

In her three seasons at the helm, the Lions have had 10 student-athletes garner All-Ivy League status and four NFHCA All-Region selections. Nelson-Nichols has coached three of the finest scorers in Columbia history in Maeve Doherty '18CC, Christina Freibott '16CC and Katie Ruesterholz '17CC, who set the school's career point records in back-to-back seasons. Additionally, Doherty earned consideration in the U.S. Field Hockey pipeline, spending time on the National Indoor squad from 2015-16.

During her time as an assistant, Nichols worked with the Columbia backfield. The Lions' defense has seen players such as Bridget DeSandis, Katie DeSandis and Lauren Skudalski earn All-Ivy League and All-Region honors. As a team, the Lions have ranked in the top 15 in defensive saves in each of Nichols' three seasons with the program.

Nelson-Nichols wrapped up a brilliant seven-year international field hockey career in the summer of 2014. A pivotal piece of Team USA's backfield, Nichols compiled a total of 165 impressive caps to her name. A solid force on penalty corners and penalty strokes, her skill set was greatly utilized most recently at the 2014 Champions Challenge and Hockey World Cup where the United States made an impressive fourth-place finish. Nelson-Nichols was a member of the 2008 Beijing Olympics team, the 2008 Olympic Qualifier team and the 2010 World Cup Qualifier Team. She earned a gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Games when the U.S. defeated top-ranked Argentina in the Championship game. In 2006, she was named to the USA World Cup Training Squad and was a member of the Netherlands Tour team in 2007.

She competed with the 2012 London Olympics team in June 2012 and was re-selected for the National Squad in June of 2013. Nichols currently coaches with the USA Field Hockey youth development programs and USA  junior national teams.

Nelson-Nichols had an outstanding collegiate playing career at Old Dominion as a four-year letterwinner from 2003-06. She was a national all-academic team selection and an all-conference honoree from 2004-06. As a junior, she was named an NFHCA second team All-South Region selection and was named to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) all-tournament team. In 2006, Nichols was recognized as an NFHCA first team All-American and an NFHCA first team All-South Region honoree. Additionally, she was named the 2006 CAA Player of the Year and CAA Defender of the Year, marking the first time in CAA history someone swept both honors in the same season.

Nelson-Nichols earned her bachelor of science in biology with honors from Old Dominion University and will graduate this May from Columbia University, Teachers College with a Masters in Applied Physiology.