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Since Tom Marcucci started working and coaching at Notre Dame-West Haven in 1970, he’s seen countless students move on to compete as major college athletics. Several moved on to careers playing pro baseball, basketball and even the NFL.
In terms of pure athleticism, Marcucci says, Nico Ragaini ranks in the school’s top five. Maybe higher. Yet Ragaini’s traits away from the football and lacrosse fields are what truly distinguished him at Notre Dame.
“His value as a teammate and classmate is immeasurable,” said Marcucci, Notre Dame’s longtime football coach and athletic director. “You wouldn’t know he was a star athlete seeing him walk around the hallways. He’s humble and he’s always team-first.”
Over at Hand-Madison, girls’ basketball coach Tim Tredwell and girls’ golf coach Jon Wilson are resigned to the fact that they may never again see an athlete as talented or distinguished as Gabby Martin.
PHOTO GALLERY: The 2017 New Haven Register MVP Banquet
She not only led her respective teams to unprecedented heights, but managed to raise the profile of those sports amongst aspiring young
athletes in Madison. They notice the championship banners or medals; her true legacy is something deeper.
“She leaves large shoes to fill. We may never see another Gabby at Hand High School,” Wilson said. “They’re inspired by Gabby’s game, but
they also see all the hard work it took for her to get to that next level.”
Ragaini and Martin are the New Haven Register Male and Female Athletes of the Year, announced at the annual All-Area MVP banquet on Wednesday night at Amarante’s Sea Cliff.
Their futures are bright.
Ragaini will attend Avon Old Farms in the fall, looking to maximize his chances of landing a full scholarship to a major college for either football or lacrosse. Martin was unable to attend the banquet because she has already enrolled in summer courses at Williams College in Massachusetts, where she will play for the basketball and golf teams.
Their status as gifted athletes and dedicated students was long ago established.
Ragaini became the first Notre Dame football player to earn all-state honors three times. He holds the state record for career receptions
(222) and school records for lacrosse assists (109) and points (180) in a career.
Martin placed second in the girls’ state golf championships as a freshman and sophomore; was starting point guard on three successive
20-plus win girls’ basketball teams.
Those who know only of the accomplishments may not know both are consummate leaders and role models to their peers. The similarities between the two are apparent in stories from coaches who’ve watched them develop and excel over the years.
Ragaini was a centerpiece to three successive postseason appearances for Notre Dame’s football team, a first in program history. Last fall he caught 59 passes for 988 yards and six touchdowns, part of 1,591 all-purpose yards, while recording 41 tackles with two interceptions on defense.
Last spring he became Notre Dame’s first all-state lacrosse player, a feat he repeated this season.
“Your team practices the way the best player practices,” Marcucci said. “When they see someone playing as hard as he plays in practice every day, working as hard in the weight room as he does every day, it spreads to the younger kids. He’s very popular, not just among the younger players, but with the younger kids in the student body.”
Martin led Hand to the Class L state championship in girls’ basketball for only the second time in program history and first since 1999. She averaged 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals, and finished with over 1,000 career points.
Tim Tredwell has coached Hand the past eight seasons, guiding the Tigers from a 5-15 record in his inaugural season. He believes the program is in position to become a perennial contender for championships, due in no small part to Martin’s role helping elevate the profile of girls’ basketball in Madison.
The start to her basketball career four years ago is something Tredwell points to as an example of her character. Martin practiced with the freshmen and varsity teams all season, yet didn’t get meaningful game minutes until the state tournament, when he keyed a 16-1 run with her all-around play.
“The competitor in her was probably upset she wasn’t playing,” Tredwell said. “But it didn’t keep her from being a good teammate.
Nowadays, as a coach, it’s rare to have a kid who does that, who doesn’t start pouting or have a parent who starts emailing the superintendent that their kid should be playing more.”
By her sophomore year, she’d become an impact player on a powerhouse team. Her selflessness and team-first mentality is evident in the box
score of the state championship win over Holy Cross. Martin scored only four points on four shots, her first basket coming in the fourth
quarter. The contributions came in the form of assists, rebounds, defense and leadership.
Her influence at Hand is almost impossible to quantify.
“It was a combination of so many things,” Tredwell said. “She’s off the charts academically. If she only did academics she’d be incredibly
special. She was grounded, humble, but an intense competitor and great teammate. If you coach someone with one of those things, that’s a kid you’re going to remember. She had everything. You don’t replace that.”
For Ragaini and Martin, the greatest contributions go beyond anything on the scoresheet.
“Numbers are nice,” Marcucci said. “But what kind of person you are is what people will remember most 20 years from now.”
2016-17 New Haven Register MVP Banquet
Dave Solomon Memorial Sportsperson of the Year: BRANDON SHERROD, Former Stratford, Yale Boys Basketball player
- Football — Nico Ragaini, Notre Dame-West Haven
- Boys’ Soccer — Salah Oumorou, West Haven
- Girls’ Soccer — Saige Bingman, Cheshire
- Field Hockey — Alexa Mulvihill, Westbrook
- Girls’ Volleyball — Kathleen Walsh, Amity
- Girls’ Swimming — Caitlin McNary, Westbrook
- Boys’ Cross Country — Drew Thompson, Fairfeld Prep
- Girls’ Cross Country — Emily Criscuolo, Amity
- Boys’ Basketball — Tremont Waters, Notre Dame-West Haven
- Girls’ Basketball — Gabrielle Martin, Hand
- Ice Hockey — Jake Blackwell, Hamden
- Wrestling — Michael Ross, Foran
- Boys’ Indoor Track — Ed Radzion, Shelton
- Girls’ Indoor Track — Kiara Smith, Law
- Boys’ Swimming — Teddy Zeng, Hand
- Gymnastics — Erin Naclerio, Hand
- Baseball — Max Scheps, Amity
- Softball — Abby Abramson, Cheshire
- Boys’ Lacrosse — Chris Brown, Fairfeld Prep
- Girls’ Lacrosse — Sophie Spencer, Branford
- Boys’ Outdoor Track — Ed Radzion, Shelton
- Girls’ Outdoor Track — Aisha Gay, Hamden
- Boys’ Tennis — Peter Conklin, Hopkins
- Girls’ Tennis — Julia Migliorini, North Haven & Marion Conklin, Hopkins
- Golf — Finn Boynton, Notre Dame-West Haven
- Boys’ Volleyball — Mitch Manware, Cheshire
New Haven Register Athletes of the Year
Pierre Venditti (Law)
Diane Potkay (Derby)
Steve Coughlin (Ansonia)
Lisa Barbaro (Morgan)
Mike O’Keefe (Notre Dame-WH)
Lisa Barbaro (Morgan)
Peter Fink (Haddam-Killingworth)
Sarah Katinger (Bunnell)
Adam Greenberg (Guilford)
Nicholette Chambers (Hillhouse)
Chris Tracz (North Branford)
Megan Miller (Law)
Glenn McFadden (Hillhouse)
Jenn Piazza (Lyman Hall)
Brian Mariano (Naugatuck)
Emily Hardy (Westbrook)
Randy Gress (Notre Dame-Fairfield)
Melissa McGow (Branford)
Mike Tamsin (Branford)
Brittney Carfora (Branford)
Craig Kenney (Branford)
Natasha Harvey (Career)
James Nixon (Hyde)
Kristen Frost (Hand)
Terrell Wilks (Hillhouse)
Katie Yanagisawa (Amity)
Rob Moir (Seymour)
Ann-Marie Clarke (Hillhouse)
Jeremy Moore (Hillhouse)
Allison Barwise (Amity)
Conor Keniry (Notre Dame-WH)
Courtney Schissler (Branford)
Pat Gillen (Shelton)
Sage Esposito (Foran)
Jake Scinto (Cheshire)
Bria Holmes (Hillhouse)
Andre Anderson (Hillhouse)
Precious Holmes (Hillhouse)
Nico Ragaini (Notre Dame-WH)
Danae Rivers (Wilbur Cross)
Nico Ragaini (Notre Dame-WH)
Gabrielle Martin (Hand)
Sportspeople of the Year
- 2002-03 — William O’Brien, Southern Connecticut Conference Commissioner
- 2003-04 — Ben Michaelson, Seymour, U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials Finalist
- 2004-05 — Annia Hatch, West Haven, U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist, Gymnastics
- 2005-06 — Anne Worcester, Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament Director
- 2006-07 — Eric Barbarito and Kermit Carolina, Hillhouse Football and Boys’ Basketball Coaches
- 2007-08 — Chad Dawson, New Haven, Boxer, WBC Light Heavyweight Champion
- 2008-09 — Kristen Frost, Southern Connecticut State University Swimmer
- 2009-10 — Deb Gruen, Hamden, U.S. Paralympic Bronze Medalist, Swimming
- 2010-11 — Keith Allain, Yale Men’s Hockey Coach
- 2011-12 — Yale Women’s Hockey Team
- 2012-13 — Jonathan Quick, Hamden, Los Angeles Kings Goaltender
- 2013-14 — Yale Men’s Hockey Team
- 2014-15 — Tyler Varga, Yale Running Back
- 2015-16 — Bob DeMayo, North Haven High Baseball Coach
- 2016-17 — Brandon Sherrod, Stratford, Yale University Men’s Basketball Player