Raiders advance to Union County finals after 3-2 win against Elizabeth


Matthew Levine

It’s been four years since the varsity boys soccer team last beat Elizabeth, but on one of the biggest stages high school soccer has to offer, the Raiders got the job done. 
“I’m gonna be remembering this for the rest of my life,” freshman Graham Kois said. “This is something I will look back on as one of the highlights of high school.” 
It felt like the premier program the Raiders have been known for; this time they got the result. Because of the tremendous goalkeeping by Kois and a great team effort, the Raiders took down Elizabeth’s top-seeded team in a 3-2 overtime thriller in the Union County semifinals on Saturday night, Nov. 7.  
“I’m so proud of the boys because we gave up two early goals and they just kept fighting,” coach Alex Passucci said. “They didn’t quit. At halftime, they were confident. They showed a lot of character and they earned that win.” 
In a game filled with momentum shifts, the Raiders found themselves in a 2-0 hole less than ten minutes into the game. 
Shortly after their second goal, Elizabeth’s goalkeeper dribbled the ball outside the box, which junior Ethan Koseoglu used to pressure and score.  This was an unacceptable play by Elizabeth’s goalie who was lucky this did not happen in previous matchups against the Raiders this season. 
“I’m standing at midfield and I see my teammates heads down,” Koseoglu said.  “I want to feel down, but I just had that mentality, and I know my team had the mentality, to just keep pushing. We’re not gonna look back, and we’re just going to keep going, and soon after that I scored. The intensity went up, and after the second half talk, it was just a whole different game. We dominated.” 
As momentum continued to change in the Raiders favor, they capitalized on the opportunity. Minutes after Elizabeth received a red card, junior Tommy Rodriguez served the ball into the box, letting Koseoglu score again and tying the game with 14 minutes left in the second half. The Minutemen rarely made substitutions down the stretch and the Raiders made them pay by tiring them out. 
As Koseoglu capped off his hat trick performance with the game winning goal off of a corner by senior Eric Watt with about 5 minutes left in the second overtime, all of Raider nation felt victorious. SPF students ran towards the fence as the players and coaches embraced in a series of bear hugs and handshakes. It marked the ultimate high for a Raiders team that was shut down due to COVID-19 and struggled mightily in the beginning of the season.