Branford Sports Hall of Fame Inducts 10 New Members
The Branford Sports Hall of Fame inducted 10 members on Nov. 18 at the Woodwinds Restaurant in Branford. The inductees were Richard Aguzzi, Jackie Alessi Ceccolini, Charlie Donohue, Paul Hunter, Mike Kligerman, Jennifer Kohut, Terry Laich, Jim Pacileo, Megan Devlin Olt, and Veronica Ormrod.
Richard Aguzzi (Class of 1958)
Richard Aguzzi grew up in the golden age of baseball in the 1950s and it was also his passion. Throughout the decade, he enjoyed success from little league to college as a dominant hitter and outstanding ball player.
Aguzzi distinguished himself at every level, beginning as a Little League All-Star, PONY League Connecticut State Champion, and continued his success as a good contact hitter with power at Branford High School (BHS) as part of two Housatonic League championships in 1957 and 1958, leading the way as Housatonic League batting (.425 average) champion and home run champ.
Following graduation from BHS in 1958, Aguzzi attended Southern Connecticut State University, where he continued to make a name for himself on the diamond. He joins his father, the late Alfred “Doc” Aguzzi, and his brothers, Robert “Tomo” Aguzzi, and the late Alfred “Allie” Aguzzi.
Jackie Alessi Ceccolini (Class of 2003)
Jackie Alessi Ceccolini has made a major impact on the BHS girls’ lacrosse program. A 2003 graduate of Branford High School, she has held every imaginable title for the team –a player on the first ever girls’ lacrosse program, captain, assistant coach, head coach, and two-time state champion. She is the second girls’ lacrosse player inducted into the Branford Sports Hall of Fame.
In her senior year, she was named to the All-SCC Team and New Haven Register All-Area Team. After graduation, Ceccolini went on to play at Springfield College (Class of 2007), where she was a four-year member of the women’s lacrosse team. She moved back to Connecticut in 2008 and was named the Hornets’ second head coach in program history a year later.
In 2017, Branford won its first state championship in program history and she was named the SCC Coach of the Year and Class M State Coach of the Year. In 2018, the Hornets repeated as state champions. She coached her last game in 2019, accumulating over 100 wins as the BHS girls’ lacrosse head coach.
Charlie Donohue (Class of 1983)
As a competitive swimmer from the age of 5 until he was 22, Charlie Donohue swam for BHS in his junior and senior seasons after returning from private school, and competed on the track team as well. Donohue made All-Housatonic in both swimming and track his senior year and was a co-captain for both teams. He was an All-State swimmer in both 1982 and 1983. As a co-captain in the 1982-83 season, Donohue led the team to their first Class M State Swimming Championship title. When Donohue graduated, he held the school records for the 200 individual medley, 100 yard freestyle, the 100 yard breaststroke, and 400 yard free relay team. The 200 IM school record stood for 25 years. Charlie was the recipient of the team’s Most Valuable Swimmer, Leader, and Scholar Awards.
After graduating from Branford, he attended Tufts University, where he swam and continued to excel in the individual medley events, where he was repeatedly a New England finalist and was a co-captain his senior year.
Paul Hunter first started coaching in Branford in 1992 for the Branford Soccer Club, primarily the U14 Division, then in 2000, he was named the club’s Director of Coaching. In 2009, Hunter became the head boys’ soccer coach at Branford. The Hornets have reached the SCC Tournament seven times since, including making their one and only appearance in an SCC tournament final in 2012. Hunter’s record at Branford heading into the 2022 season was 115-90-29.
The crown jewel of his Branford coaching career came in the fall of 2014, where the Hornets were named Class L state champions. He was selected to coach in the Connecticut Senior Bowl in 2014 and was also named the New Haven Register’s All-Area Coach of the Year.
Hunter played high school soccer at Staples in Westport, where he helped lead the Wreckers to both back-to-back FCIAC championships and Class L state titles. He was an All-FCIAC selection twice as well. He later went on to play at the University of Connecticut and was an All-American Honorable Mention pick as a junior. He was also Team MVP both years and a captain for his senior season, helping lead UConn to its second New England championship in a three-year stretch. He was also selected to play in the National Senior Bowl.
Hunter was selected in the first round, No. 11 overall, by the New York Cosmos in the 1977 North American Soccer League (NASL) draft. He was a part of the Cosmos NASL championship that year before going on to play for the Detroit Express. Hunter spent the 1981 season, his final one, in the NASL with the Tulsa Roughnecks. Hunter was named the Co-Rookie of the Year in 1978 and was inducted into the Connecticut Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004.
Mike Kligerman (Class of 1985)
Mike Kligerman excelled in football, basketball, and baseball in the mid-1980s. Kligerman was a three-year starter in basketball for the Hornets and was team captain his junior and senior years. He earned First Team All-Housatonic as a senior and was selected to the Lions Club Festival All-Tournament Team in 1985. He earned a place on the New Haven Register Tap Off Club All-County Team and Honorable Mention for the New Haven Register All-State Team.
As a defensive end in his one year of playing football, he earned a spot on the All-Housatonic League Team as an Honorable Mention. As a starting center fielder and clean-up hitter for the baseball team, he was named on the All-Housatonic League Team Honorable Mention for three years in a row and was named captain in his senior year.
After graduating, Kligerman attended Cheshire Academy for a post graduate year where he received an athletic scholarship and joined the soccer team as a goalie and led the Cats to their first ever New England Preparatory School Championship. He was awarded the 1986 Athlete of the Year at Cheshire Academy’s annual sports banquet.
For close to thirty years, Jennifer Kohut has taught and coached at BHS. She has taught Physical Education and Health, and she has served as the head coach of the girls’ soccer and boys’ golf teams. Kohut is one of the most accomplished and versatile athletes in the proud history of Manchester High athletics.
With Manchester, she earned multiple letters in field hockey, basketball, and softball. Remarkably, she was selected by her peers as a captain for all three teams. She earned All-CCC Team Conference honors as a junior and senior in each sport. Additional accolades included team MVP (all 3 sports) and All-State Team status in field hockey and softball. At the conclusion of her senior year, she was named the Female Athlete of the Year at her alma mater. In the fall of 1984, Kohut matriculated to UConn, where she lettered in field hockey and softball.
Jen began her teaching career at Holy Cross High School in New Britain. After four years, she was hired by the Branford Board of Education to teach Physical Education at Murphy School before transferring to BHS in 1997. For two seasons, Kohut served as an assistant coach for the girls’ soccer team. In 1998, she took over the program. In total, her soccer teams have captured six divisional titles. In 2012, the Hornets won the prestigious SCC title. As a result of her unprecedented success, she has been named New Haven Register Coach of the Year and SCC Coach of the Year. As the boys’ golf head coach, her teams have won three divisional championships. Similar to soccer, she has been recognized as the New Haven Register and SCC Conference Coach of the Year for her guidance on the links.
Terry Laich (Class of 1969)
Terry Laich excelled in football and basketball. The son to Alyce and George “Battler” Laich (who was also an inductee in the Branford Sports Hall of Fame back in 1990), Laich became a skilled quarterback and safety for the football team. As a member of the Hornets’ boys’ basketball team, during his junior year, Branford earned a Housatonic League championship. In his senior year, he and his teammates posted a 18-1 record and, again, were league champs.
Following high school, Laich entered Milford Academy and continued playing basketball. His dreams for success in the world of sports were dashed when he was diagnosed with a serious and rare health condition at the young age of 19. He never gave in to his physical health challenges and embraced a lie of adventure, making friends worldwide while keeping strong ties with his Branford friends over the years. Sadly, Laich passed away in 1999.
Jim Pacileo (Class of 1972)
Jim Pacileo earned seven varsity letters (3 in football and 4 in baseball). Over the three years as a quarterback, he set several school records: most career touchdown passes (33), most TD passes in a season (14), most career passing yards (3,550), and most rushing yards in a season by a QB (692). He was honored to receive the “Stu Clancy Award” for the 1971 football season. Pacileo was named Defensive Player of the Year as a catcher on the baseball team in his junior year and co-captain in his senior season.
At the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, he lettered in both baseball and football. He is the winningest QB in Academy history with a record of 15-3 and was selected as a captain in his senior year, leading the team to a record of 8-1 and ranked fifth nationally in Division III. He set and tied several academy records, such as most passing yards in a game, most completions in a game, most passing attempts in a game, and most TD passes in a game. He was inducted into the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.
Megan Devlin Olt
Megan Devlin Olt made her mark at BHS as an outstanding basketball and volleyball player, earning her local and state recognition. She achieved success and recognition on the volleyball court and, by the time she finished her career at BHS, she had twice earned Second Team All-State Team and team MVP accolades her junior and senior seasons. In both those years, she led the Hornets to the SCC Hammonasset Division crown.
On the basketball court, she was named to the New Haven Tap-Off Club All-Freshman Team and, in her senior year, led the Hornets to the SCC Hammonasset Division crown, the SCC Tournament final, and the quarterfinals in the state basketball tournament.
Devlin Olt continued her volleyball career at Colby College, where she was a four-year starter for the Mules. She was named a tri-captain for Colby in 2005.
Veronica Ormrod led the BHS girls’ swimming and diving team to a Class M state championship, where she led off the first place medley relay, placed second in the 50 yard freestyle, placed first in the 100 yard backstroke, and led off the first place 400 yard freestyle relay.
At the State Open Championships, she claimed the 100 yard backstroke and set another Branford record. After graduating from Branford, Ormrod attended Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Florida and helped them win the National Junior College Swimming and Diving Championship in the 100 yard backstroke and part of the 200 yard and 400 yard freestyle relay squads.
After junior college, she enrolled at Southern Connecticut State University, where she set a number of school records, earning All-American Team designation at the NCAA Division II National Championships.