Hall of Fame Inductees – 2021
1958-59 Men’s Basketball Team
The 1958-59 Plainville High School Basketball team battled its way to the Class “B” State Championship title. Along the journey with two starters missing due to illness their only blemish was a loss to Southington. Making excuses was never the mantra of this era of Plainville basketball and the talented Blue Devils used this loss as motivation to help them capture the CVC Championship, a State Championship and a remarkable 24-1 overall record. This impressive won \ lost record was especially noteworthy since they beat state power East Haven twice during the regular season, snapping their 64 home game win streak! In the 1950’s East Haven dominated the State Tournament with multiple state championships on their resume.
East Haven had their opportunity to revenge their losses in the semi final game. This by far was the most anticipated game of the tournament that year and many considered this to be the championship game. Leading by six at the half, East Haven was confident of victory, but led by Hall of Fame coach Pat Riera in true Blue Devil fashion the ‘58-59 team didn’t disappoint with a dramatic 41-39 victory. In the tourney final PHS resoundingly beat Lyman Hall 59-47 to capture the Class B State Championship crown. John Gacek, Brian Brooks and Ted Davis were named to the All Tournament team. Additional honors also followed as both Co-Captains Gacek and Brooks were named to the 1958-59 Class B All State team.
One of the most accomplished teams in Plainville Basketball history was coached by two Hall of Fame coaches, Pat Riera and Joe Dehm. Additionally seven current Hall of Famers: John Gacek, Brian Brooks, Jim Tufts, Steve Vargo, Roger Roy,Ted Davis and Bob Dalke were players on the 1958-59 Class B State Title Team.
2000-01 Women’s Basketball Team
The 2001 Class M State Champions were the first female team to win a state title for Plainville High School. After compiling a 15-5 regular season record, they were seeded eighth in the Class M tournament; the team beat the #1, 2, 4, 9 and 25th seeds to finish the season with a record of 21-6. Of the six games they lost, two were to another state championship team and three were to a state semi-finalist team.
After narrowly making the tournament for the first time in years the previous season, the buzz prior to game one in December was still as loud. The bleachers were packed. Led by senior co-captains Jessica Casinghino and Shelley Everson, the 2001 team had size (3 starters 5’10 or taller), speed, quickness, and two precocious, but unproven freshmen guards. The team rolled to victory after victory.
The team averaged 50 points per game while holding opponents to just 38 points per game (credit Megan Ferguson with guarding the opposing team’s best athlete). The Plainville roster had five players in the top 25 in scoring in the area. This included seniors Jess Casinghino with 11.8 and Shelley Everson with 9.7, freshman Jen Dabrowski 9.1, juniors Shana Lucente with 8.3 and Corrine Byrne with 7 points per game. Even with their leadership, it was a true team effort. Any player was capable of carrying the team on any given night. When defenses doubled up on Cas, the guards took over from the outside. Dabrowski shot 70% from beyond the arc that year. And when she wasn’t shooting, she was passing to Lucente who was tough to guard because of her size and ability to hit from the outside and drive to the basket. Byrne took care of the misses with rebound after rebound. In fact, she garnered MVP honors of the championship game with double-digit scoring with put back points. The minutes that Megan Susco and Diana Heubner spelled the starters were also significant. Add in the efforts and unselfish attitudes of role players like Regina Crane, Allison Caswell, Rachel Caron, and Kat Spirito, and the result was a well-prepared, well-rounded, balanced and physical State Championship team.
Coached by Lisa Mandeville and assisted by Lou Mandeville and Steve Compson, the team was a tremendous source of pride for the Plainville Community. Fans filled the seats night after night to watch the Lady Blue Devils play as a team. Plainville fans were the best “sixth man” in the state. Even the newspaper reporters were faithful followers. Many of them couldn’t wait to write articles about the darlings of Plainville High School. The 2001 Lady Blue Devils combined talent and athleticism with an unselfish attitude, passion, and determination to win the hearts of Plainville alumni both near and far. They finished the season ranked #8 overall in the Hartford Courant Poll, but #1 in the hearts of the Plainville Fans!
In 2020, the New Britain Herald ranked the 2001 Class M State Champions among the top ten best all-time girls’ basketball teams in the area.
Jennifer Dabrowski Hover
Jennifer Dabrowski graduated from Plainville High School in 2004. She scored 1,060 points despite playing with a torn ACL her entire senior year. A four-year varsity starter, she guided the team to a Class M State Championship as a freshman. A phenomenal athlete, the teams won 60 games during her career. Her dribbling skills dazzled the crowd as they chanted “She’s a freshman,” with vigor. Her perfect 6 for 6 shooting from the foul line during the waning minutes of the championship game sealed the victory. The consummate point guard, she could dribble, drive and shoot. As a result, she was a 4-time All-Northwest Conference selection. A true scholar athlete, she garnered All-Academic honors as well.
Said Coach Mandeville, “If I was starting my own All-PHS basketball team, I would start with Jennifer at the point. She wasn’t the fastest or the quickest (although she was both), or even flashy, but the more you watched her play, the more you appreciated what she did for the team. Her basketball IQ was tremendous. She knew when to pass and when to shoot. She was just as good defensively too and fun to watch. On fast breaks, she drifted backwards and defended the ball without fouling. It wasn’t something that was taught. It was Jen being Jen.”
After graduation, she attended Western New England College. There, she continued her dominance on the hardcourt. Throughout her collegiate career at WNEC, she scored 1,545 points. Among Jen’s accolades in college were WNEC’s Rookie of the Year, 3-time All-Conference First-Team, and 2-time Coca-Cola Female Athlete of the Year. After her final season, she was selected to the first-team All-Northeast Region and named the Conference Player of the Year. Jennifer was inducted into Western New England College’s Hall of Fame in 2016.
TJ Ferguson was a dedicated and tireless swimmer and diver whose incredible work habits were the impetus for his unique ability to accomplish the rare double feat of being named Class S All State twice with two third place finishes in the one hundred yard breaststroke in 2000 and 2001, a second place finish in the 200 yard freestyle relay in 2001, a fourth place finish his junior year and a State Championship finish during his senior year in one meter springboard diving as well. During his incredible career at P.H.S. he established school records in both events.
While competing in the 2001 C.I.A.C. State Open his time of 1:02.90 in the breaststroke created a new mark and his score of 301.35 while diving at his home pool set the standard that still exists today. Additional accolades include his being a two time C.I.A.C. State Open participant in both the one hundred yard breaststroke and one meter springboard diving events finishing 2nd in 2001. He was selected by the Northwest Conference four times for academic achievement in swimming, three time All Nutmeg Conference in swimming and two time All Northwest & Nutmeg Conference in diving. TJ twice achieved the P.H.S. Most Valuable Swimmer Award and the All New Britain Herald Award for both swimming and diving.
Amazingly, TJ only began diving in 2001 his junior year at Plainville. He practiced twice a day, swimming during the afternoons in Plainville and diving at night at Wesleyan University in Middletown. His commitment to his diving excellence afforded him the opportunity to achieve the perfect score of 10 on one of his final high school dives.
After graduating in 2001, he became a team member on the prestigious Fort Lauderdale Hall of Fame U.S.A. Diving Team. Subsequently, TJ accepted an athletic scholarship to N.C.A.A. Division One North Carolina State University. During his collegiate career he competed in both the one and three meter springboard diving events and dove platform as well. After two years TJ transferred to the University of Connecticut where he broke and established a new school record in three meter springboard diving.
Matt Straub graduated from Plainville High School in 1996. Everyone who knows him would say he has so much passion for Plainville and truly bleeds blue. His work with the Plainville Athletic program began in 1991 as a seventh-grader. He worked closely with football statistician, Tom Arcari compiling defensive statistics for the Plainville Varsity team. Matt continued his involvement during the springtime and was the scorebook keeper for the Middle School Baseball team, then eventually becoming the high school varsity keeper throughout his four years at Plainville High School.
While in high school, Straub would uncover advanced stats and information that helped the baseball coaching staff during two of their State Titles runs. Matt worked closely with Coach Freimuth volunteering his time throughout the spring and continued working with Coach Zalaski and the football program in the fall helping to track vital statistics. Both coaches made him an integral part of their programs and this involvement only fueled his passion for the programs that he loved. During his senior year at PHS, Matt did job shadowing at the New Britain Herald. This exposure to journalism contributed to Matt writing stories that highlighted many different athletic programs at Plainville High School. This experience contributed to Matt developing his passion for writing.
Upon his graduation, Matt attended Northeastern University in Boston studying journalism. He worked for the school newspaper during his four years covering Northeastern’s Men’s and Woman’s Soccer, Woman’s Swimming, and Men’s Ice Hockey. After graduation in 2001, Matt found himself back at the New Britain Herald with his first official job. He was the beat writer for the Plainville Football Program, the CCSU Blue Devils, and the New Britain Rock Cats. Matt was known to also cover everything related to Plainville Athletics. He served as a writer and editor for the Herald for over a decade. Plainville Athletics were routinely highlighted on the front page of the newspaper and stories spotlighting Plainville student-athletes with regularity. Matt has since moved on from the newspaper, but his love for Plainville Athletics has never diminished. Matt can still be found attending sporting events and is an avid Blue Devil fan.
Naoemi Villafane Raimondi
A talented and published author, ‘Visualize Positive Results’ whose athletic background became the impetus behind a career path that allowed her to achieve excellence in many unique athletic disciplines graduated from Plainville High School in 1996. During her high school career, Naoemi earned eleven varsity letters, four each in both Soccer and Track and Field and three in Cheerleading. In Soccer she was selected All Northwest Conference and Most Improved during her senior season and in Cheerleading she was awarded the Team Spirit Award also during her senior year. However, it was in Track and Field that she drew the most accolades. Naoemi’s specialty was the 100 Yard High Hurdles and during her Junior and Senior years she ran undefeated in dual meet competition. She also was part of a school record setting 4 x 100 relay team along with HOF member Jill Giannini that established the new benchmark. Additional honors followed including being named All Northwest Conference and All State 1994-96, participating in both the State Open and New England Championships and Co-Captain of the 1996 Class M State Champion Outdoor Track Team.
After her PHS graduation, Naoemi moved on to Division 1 Central Connecticut State University where she continued her outstanding athletic and academic accomplishments graduating with a degree in accounting in 2000 and an MBA in Business Administration in 2001. From her love of competition and physical well being sprang the passion to sustain her fitness foundation. She changed her career path becoming a Certified Fitness Instructor and Trainer currently employed at the Southington-Cheshire YMCA. She has been a Triathlon Coach, Adventure Racing Coach, Multi-Sport Trainer, along with being an Aerobics and Fitness Instructor. Competitively, she has been in the top three female finishers in 95% of the Multi Sport events that she has competed in since 2006. Additionally, she has completed four marathons including both the prestigious New York City and Boston Marathons. Her finishing time of 3:40 in the NYC Marathon earned her a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. Naoemi’s finishing time at Boston was 3:36, which also was a requalifying time. The Boston Marathon considered by many the Holy Grail for distance runners has become even harder to get into each passing year.
Phil Rothkugel was a great teammate who was a four-year starter and letter winner on the Plainville High School Baseball team during 1997-2001. He was a two-time All State (2000 and 2001) nominee and named to the All Northwest Conference team all four years of his career.
Philip was an offensive powerhouse who was feared by opposing players and coaches. He was a natural hitter with power to all fields and an excellent athlete. “As coaches, we never had to say anything to Philip Rothkugel about hitting. He had an amazing ability to hit a baseball and hit it with power to all fields. We just left him alone and he did his thing,” said Coach Freimuth.
During his career at PHS he finished with a .424 batting average, had 129 hits, drove in 120 runs and hit 17 home runs. In 1999, as a sophomore, he helped lead the Blue Devils to the CIAC Class M State Championship. That season he batted .500, hit 8 home runs and drove in 39 runs. In 2001 he helped lead a young team to the CIAC Class M State finals. During the year he batted .541 with an amazing 41 hits in 23 games. On the mound he finished his career with 8 pitching victories with only one defeat and a career earned run average of 1.90.
During Philips’ senior year he recorded a 31-10 record in the Unlimited weight class while earning All Northwest Conference.
While at PHS he also participated in football and basketball.
He went on to have an outstanding collegiate career at CCSU where he still remains an all time leader in numerous offensive categories.
Shawn Curtis graduated from Plainville High School in 1993 as a two-year captain of the wrestling team and arguably one of the most decorated and feared wrestlers in Plainville history.
During one of the more successful decades in Plainville sports history Shawn recorded some of the finest accolades of any athlete. He was elected captain of the wrestling team in both his junior and senior year, which is a testimony to the amount of respect he garnered from his teammates and coaches during his wrestling career.
He was a highly decorated Northwest Conference wrestler being named All Conference in 1990-1992-1993 on his way to winning the championship in all three of those years and being named Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament in 1993.
Shawn’s success did not stop at the league level though he continued his dominance in his weight class at the state level as well. He earned the CIAC Class M State runner up in 1991 at 140 lbs. and won the CIAC Class M State championship in both 1992 at 140 lbs. and 1993 at 145 lbs. Also, in 1993 as a senior, Shawn went on to win the CIAC State Open championship and was named to the All State team. Additionally, Shawn capped his wrestling career at Plainville by taking home a fourth-place finish at the 1993 New England Championships.
Dr. Curtis’s educational career is just as distinguished as his wrestling career. Shawn earned his Bachelor’s Degree in 2013 in the field of psychological sciences. After that his drive to succeed led him to Wright Sate University where he earned his Psy.D in Psychology in 2018.
Todd Goodall was an outstanding two-sport athlete in soccer and golf while earning the distinction of being captain for both teams. He earned varsity letters in both sports, compiling a total of eight varsity letters. During the fall Todd was an outstanding soccer player. According to an interview in the New Britain Herald, HOF coach Greg Ziogas, stated before his sophomore season that “Goodall is a good one” and he wasn’t wrong. He was the leading goal scorer his junior and senior years along with being the total points leader his senior season. During his senior year he led his team to the State Tournament with a record of 7-5-3.
However, golf was Todd’s best sport. It ultimately led him to being offered a full golf scholarship to New England golf power the University of Hartford. It was well before his days at Plainville High School that he fell in love with the game of golf. His parents were members of Chippanee Country Club in Bristol and Todd started learning and playing when he was twelve years old. He won the Junior Club Championship in 1980 with rounds of 79 and 73. When he turned sixteen the following year, he played in the Men’s Club Championship and won the tournament by shooting a 220 total with scores of 75,74 and 71 to become the youngest Men’s Club Champion. It was shortly thereafter, that the country club didn’t allow juniors to “participate” in the Men’s Club Championship.
Todd became a staple at local golf tournaments around the greater Hartford area. He played in tournaments such as the New Britain National Bank Tournament, CT State Amateur, CT State Open, BIG I Insurance Youth Classic, and Bristol City Championship along with numerous other junior tournaments throughout CT. In his freshmen year at PHS he dislocated his thumb during basketball practice forcing him to additionally forego playing baseball. This injury proved to be fortuitous for golf coach Steve Guerriero as Todd’s inability to swing a baseball bat never derailed him from swinging a golf club and playing golf at the high school level. During his career at Plainville High School, Todd was selected all-conference both his Junior and Senior years. His individual record was 16-1 with a stroke average of 76.2. It is safe to say, breaking his finger his freshmen year turned out to be a great thing for Todd.
Todd played four years at University of Hartford, playing on the same team as current PGA Tour Professionals, Jerry Kelly and Tim Petrovic. His college golf coach, Mike Gargano, was quoted as saying “We’re the best team in New England, one of the best in the East and one of the top 25 in Division 1 in the country.” Todd was part of the first team from New England to win the Yale Invitational. During the Yale Invitational, the Hawks set a course record for the three day tournament and Todd playing in 5th shot his low round that year of 71 helping his team capture the prestigious championship. During his junior year, he played in eight events averaging 76.2 and a low round of 71. Completing his senior year he played in seven events and averaged 79 with a low round of 73.