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Lehighton’s Hough makes her own mark

When Lehighton junior Karissa Hough was a child, her grandfather, Kenneth Solt, drove the bus for Lehighton’s field hockey team.

Solt was transporting the Indians during their magical run to a PIAA State Championship in 2009.

That connection helped pique Hough’s interest in the sport.

Almost a decade later, Hough is making her own mark on Lehighton’s field hockey history by adding to the program’s success in her own way.

The center-midfielder tallied eight goals and four assists this past season, leading the Indians to a District 11 championship and a berth in the state playoffs. For those accomplishments, Hough is the 2018 Times News/Lehigh Valley Health Network Field Hockey Player of the Year.

“She wasn’t the leading scorer, but she did so many things so well for us,” Lehighton head coach Vanessa Rimbey said. “She’s our playmaker out there on the field. She’s amazing at ball control. Her stick control is stellar, and her field vision is the best.

“Not only is she talented, but she works so hard at practices and in games, it makes the other players around her want to improve as well. She sets the bar high for the other girls to look up to.”

As good as Hough played during the regular season, she was even better in the postseason.

In the District 11 Class 1A final, the Tribe squared off against Northwestern. After coming up short in the previous two seasons, this year proved to be different as the Indians scored a 2-1 win for the championship.

“It felt so amazing to win because after losing in the finals the past two years, we came together as a team, played well and finally got the win,” Hough said.

Rimbey, who also coaches Hough in track (hurdles and sprints), recalled a moment from the first round of the state tournament against Susquenita.

“She made the game-winning goal off a corner and it was a dynamite shot,” Rimbey said.

“I remember just trying to calm myself, and get the nerves out,” Hough said. “I remember stopping the ball, then taking the shot, and afterward it was such a great feeling, jumping in the air, the other girls screaming and celebrating.”

In the next round, eventual state champ Wyoming Seminary handed the Tribe a season-ending loss.

“We knew how good they were going into it, and we just went out there and tried our best,” said Hough.

While in fifth grade, Hough went out and purchased her own field hockey stick. Since then she has been training year-round. She is a member of the Marojoka Hockey Club, which is based in Whitehall, and has the opportunity to play alongside other talented players in the Lehigh Valley. The club season begins in fall and continues through the end of February.

“As soon as I began playing it, I wanted to become better at it,” Hough said. “And as an individual, I hope to keep improving, gaining more knowledge, and better myself even more in any way I can.

“As a team, I hope we can continue to build on the momentum we had at the completion of this past season, continue to work together as a team, and hopefully fill the void left by the graduating seniors.”

The Indian junior was recently invited to participate in the Under Armour Classic Showcase in Massachusetts. Plenty of Division 1 college coaches were in attendance to check out Hough’s skills.

“I was definitely nervous, playing in front of the coaches and all those potentially influential people,” Hough said. “But after the first minute of playing, I relaxed and it was really exciting to play with all of those other great field hockey players.”

Hough’s ability to play with the sport’s elite doesn’t surprise Rimbey.

“She’s just such a passionate person,” Rimbey said. “She’s so insightful and you can tell she loves the sport so much. She wants to learn more and more and never stop learning or improving. She is proving to be such a great role model for the rest of the girls to look up to and emulate.”

As good as Hough was this past season, Rimbey is looking for even more during her senior campaign.

“Karissa is a very reserved person who leads by example,” said Rimbey. “If there was one thing that she could work on more for the upcoming season, it would be that she could be more of a verbal leader.”

Rimbey expects that to happen.

Because if there’s one thing for certain, when there’s a challenge or goal to accomplish, Hough is the student-athlete for the job.