ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Dee Abrahamson (Northern Illinois University/NCAA), the late Anthony LaRezza (Immaculate Heart Academy) and Brad Pickler (Cypress College) were inducted into the NFCA Hall of Fame on Friday evening at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City.
At the NFCA Convention's marquee event, the trio of coaches enter as the Association's 29th Hall of Fame Class. The induction of Abrahamson, LaRezza and Pickler brings the Hall's membership to 83. Joelle Della Volpe, who played travel ball under LaRezza, accepted on his behalf.
At the conclusion of the event, NFCA President for Awards Pat Conlan (Georgetown University) announced the Class of 2020 – St. Mary’s University head coach Donna Fields, Williams College head coach Kris Herman and Phoenix College head coach Heinz Mueller. The banquet and induction ceremony will be held, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 in Dallas, Texas.
Abrahamson, formerly a head coach and administrator at Northern Illinois and NCAA Softball Secretary-Rules Editor, with the NCAA was being inducted in the Trailblazer category tonight. A 2007 recipient of the NFCA’s Distinguished Service Award, you can still see Abrahamson around the country as she currently serves the NCAA as an equipment consultant.
Abrahamson began her NIU career as the Huskies’ head softball coach serving in that capacity from 1980 to 1994. She steered Northern Illinois to a Women’s College World Series berth in 1988, and totaled a Huskie career-record of 416-286-5. The two-time Northern Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame inductee moved into athletic administration where she rose from Assistant Athletic Director to Senior Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator.
Prior to her time in Dekalb, Abrahamson founded the women’s athletic program at Lincoln Trail Community College, where she guided the softball team to 152 wins.
Highly regarded as a nationally-recognized expert in softball and bat technology, Abrahamson was the NCAA Softball Secretary-Rules editor from 1996 to 2015 and a co-author of the original NCAA Softball Rules Book, published in 1997.
LaRezza’s Immaculate Heart squad was among the most successful high school programs in the nation under his leadership. The Blue Eagles captured three state championship and numerous county titles to go along with their many state tournament appearances up until the time of his death. LaRezza passed away in February of 2016 due to complications from cancer treatment, his second battle with the disease.
LaRezza was tabbed Immaculate Heart head coach in 2005, where he previously served as an assistant from 1998 to 2004. He ranks 20th on the North Jersey coaching wins list with 338 and guided Immaculate Heart to four Bergen County crowns, including three straight from 2011-13.
His 2015 team went 31-3 to finish ranked 15th nationally in the USA Today Sports/ NFCA High School Super 25 and garnered him and assistant coaches NFCA East Region High School Coaching Staff of the Year. The 2012 squad went 32-0 en route to the state championship and the Blue Eagles also won the state crown, the first under LaRezza, in 2009.
LaRezza, a longtime Newark firefighter, was also a seasoned coach and administrator with local travel ball teams, including many years with the NJ Pride. Most recently, his dream of a tournament that would help cancer-stricken children came to fruition. In 2019, Joelle Della Volpe, partnering with the NFCA, successfully organized the NFCA New Jersey High School Leadoff Classic in tribute to LaRezza. The proceeds from the tournament were donated to Tackle Kids Cancer.
Entering his 33rdseason as Cypress College’s head coach, Brad Pickler has compiled over 1,300 career wins and led the Chargers to a record nine CCCAA State Championships.
Since Pickler’s arrival on campus in 1987, he has turned the Chargers into one of the most successful junior college programs in the United States. He took over a once depleted program and managed to turn it around overnight, earning himself 16 Conference Coach of the Year awards over his 32-year tenure. He was featured in Sports Illustrated’sFaces in the Crowd section after guiding the Chargers to a 66-5 record during the 1997 State Championship run.
Pickler has steered Cypress to 28 state final appearances and 24 Orange Empire Conference titles. His legacy includes directing the Chargers to a record three consecutive state crowns from 1997-1999 with a combined 177-17 mark. In 2017, his Cypress squad completed the first-ever undefeated State Championship run in CCCAA softball history, finishing the season 48-0.
In addition to nine state championships, the Chargers twice finished runners-up and reached the semifinals on eight occasions, capturing third place four times.