Bagels, Battles and Title Bids: Raiders One Win Away From State Championship

Matthew Levine, Editor in Chief

The foundation of Coach Nick Miceli’s lacrosse program can be traced back to his playing days on Long Island. 


“It’s what I grew up with on Long Island, it’s a very close-knit program from the youth program to the high school and that’s what we try to emulate here,” Miceli said. “We say family — it’s on our shirts, it’s on our helmets, and we really mean that.”


The camaraderie extends to the parents, the alumni and goes as far as pre-game food deliveries, including Fanwood Bagel delivered by former player and graduate of the Class of 2021, Will Mauer alongside his mom before the Raiders defeated Randolph 10-8 Wednesday afternoon in the NJSIAA, North Jersey Group III State Tournament semifinals. 


“I think one way that we’re really lucky this year is to have very strong support from all the parents because I think all the parents know that what we have this year is special and it’s not going to last forever,” senior goalkeeper Alex Lo said. “Before states started, I think the parents put together a bunch of little goodie bags for the players. Everyone got bracelets that have inspirational words and then some food too.” 


So when the final buzzer sounded against Randolph, securing the Raiders’ first-ever state final appearance against two-seeded Chatham on Saturday, it represented 10 years of struggle, development and dedication towards the ever-elusive state championship ring Miceli and his squad can win this weekend. 


 “It’s been a lot of years of hard work from a lot of different people,” said Miceli, who is in his tenth year coaching the high school program. “Our youth program has been fantastic, it’s been a lot of guys that have come through this program and we’ve been to the state semifinals three or four times and have never been able to get over that hump. Now we’re in the championship, but again, we’re not just happy being there.” 


Senior attackman Jake Monroy has played a pivotal role in the offense all season long and helped carry the team with four goals, including a sweet left-handed rocket to make it 10-7 with ten minutes left to play. 


“It was a punch to the gut for that defense, so that was definitely my favorite shot,” Monroy said. 


Not only has Monroy’s playmaking ability been an X-factor for this offense, but his leadership off the field has also been key. When the Raiders entered the locker room winning 8-6 but giving up six goals — something they were not content with — Monroy, the rest of the senior leadership and Miceli made sure to increase the energy and make the necessary adjustments. 


“Jake was fantastic today. I thought he was the most consistent guy on offense,” Miceli said. “Hats off to Randolph, they came here and gave us an amazing game, they’re a real tough team, really well-coached. Randolph came out and stuck it to us in that first half. I know we were up 8-6, but for us to give up six goals in the first half was uncharacteristic. I thought we were a little rattled. Guys were able to come together and kudos to our seniors. We held them to only two second-half goals, which was huge.” 


Senior captain Ben Root was essential to that second-half effort, continuing to show why he should be regarded as one of the premier defensemen in the state. 


“I think [Ben is] the most underrated defenseman in the state,” Miceli said. “He’s a true lockdown guy, sometimes he doesn’t pass the eye test because he’s not the biggest guy, but he’s an unbelievable defender and he did a great job on their number seven today.” 


After losing to Chatham in the state semifinals last season, the Raiders enter this game with ghosts, desiring vengeance. And if they are able to win Saturday, there will be much more than just bagels at the ensuing celebration. 


“At halftime, we really got in each other’s heads, said what we had to do and we came out and executed,” Monroy said. “I think it was a big defensive half. We shut them down to two goals in the second half and that’s what we needed to do. If we’re shutting teams down to two goals a half we’re gonna win the state championship on Saturday.” 


Pack the stands, Raider Nation. It’s Hardware Time.