No one has had a more profound impact on the Branford High School Girls Lacrosse program than Jackie Alessi Ceccolini. In fact, it would not be a stretch to call her “Mrs. Branford Lacrosse.” Jackie, a 2003 graduate of Branford High School, was a stellar player and a captain on the first varsity team. Furthermore, she has capably served as an assistant coach, before becoming the Hornets head coach in 2009. Tonight, Jackie joins Melissa McGow (Class of 2017) as the second former lacrosse player inducted into the Branford Sports Hall of Fame. Jackie’s passion for lacrosse did not materialize until she entered Branford High School. In the late 1990’s, there simply were not organized youth programs available for children in Shoreline communities. However, her father Joe was an accomplished player in Long Island. In 2000, Jason Dittert became the coach of a club team which Jackie was eager to participate in. Two years later, the team achieved varsity status in the SCC Conference. In 2003, her senior year, Jackie was selected by her peers as a co-captain. During that season, she led the Hornets to a piece of the SCC Championship and she was selected to the All-SCC team. Following graduation, she continued her education and lacrosse career at Springfield College. As a member of “the Pride,” Jackie helped lead her squad to the NEWMAC Championship in 2005. In 2007, she was a captain and following the season was named ALL NEWMAC Conference as a defender. In the spring of 2007, Jackie graduated with a B.S in Education.
In 2008, Jackie returned home to Branford and began her coaching career under Dittert. The following year, she was promoted to the head coach position. Jackie’s search for assistant coaches was quickly filled by her father Joe and brother Billy. Harmoniously, the trio worked diligently for years shaping the lives of student athletes.
The 2017 Hornets team entered the season with great expectations. The squad was talented, motivated, and had strong leadership. Early in the season, Branford was defeated by Pomperaug by the score of 15-8. The Hornets rebounded and continued to improve in all phases of the game.
The team entered the state tournament seeded fourth. On May 13th, as fate would have it, Branford battled Pomperaug for the championship. In overtime, the Hornets grinded out a 13-12 victory to claim the Class M State Title. The New Haven Register recognized Jackie as the All-Area Coach of the Year.
In 2018, the Hornets returned the core nucleus of the championship team. The squad was primed to make another run at the title. The finals were contested between Branford and rival Daniel Hand at Law High School. The Tigers jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Branford rallied for 6 consecutive goals. In the end, the Hornets won 11-8 to capture their second Class M State Championship. The squad finished the season with a 19-3 record. Deservingly so, Jackie was named as the All SCC and All State Coach of the Year.
With the desire to spend more time with her husband and children, Jackie retired from coaching during the COVID-19 lost season. In total, her teams won 124 games. Equally as important, Jackie earned the respect and gratitude of countless former players, their parents, and rival coaches. While enrolled at Branford High School, Jackie was also a distinguished soccer player. “On the pitch,” she earned multiple varsity letters and served as a team captain as a senior. Longtime coach and fellow hall of fame member Jennifer Kohut paid homage to her by stating, “Jackie was
a focused and hardworking leader. She had the uncanny ability to elevate the play of those around her. Her work ethic and commitment were second to none.”
Professionally, Jackie is employed as an elementary school teacher at Mary Tisko School. Currently, Jackie and her husband Dustin are raising their children Chase, Paige, and Morgan in Branford.