Staying Public: How the Raiders Became State Champions


Matthew Levine, Editor in Chief

We’re practicing on Monday. 


Rewind to June 2021, the boys lacrosse team and Coach Miceli sat on the turf field for their end-of-season meeting. Players were pissed off; they were sad, angry, frustrated. Most of all, they were hungry. They had just lost to the Chatham Cougars in the NJSIAA, North Group 3 state semifinal 9-7 and their season was over. There would be no more practicing on Monday. 


We’re practicing on Monday. 


The Raiders knew they left plays on the table in that semifinal loss, so they made a pact. 2022 would be a revenge tour, a business trip, a state championship-winning season — an assurance that the Raiders would be practicing on Mondays long after everyone else’s season ended. And anything else would be considered a disappointment. 


“As the season got started, we kind of had a countdown like three months, dialed in, a month left, dialed in, we got to the state tournament two weeks ago, dialed in, we got to today before the game, dialed in,” Miceli said. “[I told the team] 48 minutes of playing our game and we’re champions. We did a little extra than 48, but it’s a testament to these kids.” 


When senior Matt Power sealed the Raiders’ state championship fate with an incredible goal on Saturday, May 28 to defeat Chatham 10-9 in the NJSIAA, North Group 3 final, everything arrived full circle. Championship teams require a different type of mental fortitude, a special type of DNA and a group of people that love to be together. 


“We knew this year was the time,” senior attackman Sandro Frias said. “When we created the group chat for this team, it had the ring emoji because we knew we were getting this ring, and nothing was going to stop us. When we went into the locker room because of the rain, everyone stayed positive. It was the leadership of our seniors that really kept us together and we came out buzzing and got the win.” 


Power on the game-winning goal: 


“We spun it around a couple of times, and I saw how open it was,” Power said. “I took an alley right down and then I saw the opening in the cage and the rest is history. I’m glad that we lived up to the hype, we’ve been talking about it all year. I was confident, the whole team was confident.” 


Senior Chase Alber missed time because of a broken wrist. He’s battling through the injury, in intense pain, sporting two pieces of plastic sandwiching a piece of foam on the wrist. Whenever Alber is on the field, teams must respect his presence even while playing at less than 100 percent. 


“This was the biggest game in program history,” Alber said. “If anyone’s a little banged up, bruised up, you just got to tough it out for this type of game. I got time later today to ice up and stuff but on the field, just got to keep working and fight through those things.” 


Frias suffered a knee injury in the winter. The doctor told him it would take 4-6 months to heal, meaning he’d likely miss the full lacrosse season. Frias started Saturday against Chatham and scored two huge goals. 


“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Frias said. “My doctor told me I was gonna be out for 4-6 months. It was probably the darkest time of my life, but this team was my outlet. Coming here every day for practice, that’s what kept me going. Being able to compete in the championship game, be on the field, get two goals, it’s the best feeling in the world and this is probably the best day of my life. I’m so glad to do it with this team, these guys are my brothers and I love every single one of them. The feeling is indescribable.” 


Senior Alex Lo struggled in the state semifinal against Randolph. He bounced back today with 13 saves, in not only the best game of his career but the biggest game of his career. 


“I told myself, it’s all about telling yourself that you’re the best and I think over those three days in practice I focused on me,” Lo said. “The number one thing I wanted to do was help the team, come out today and play the best game ever.” 


Senior Mikey Kloepfer was held to one goal on Wednesday against Randolph. He too bounced back and scored four goals today. 


“I just knew I didn’t perform my best,” Kloepfer said. “I stayed after practice. I knew it was a problem with my shot, my shot wasn’t right. I knew I had to show up, this is a big, big stage and I had to show up for us to win.”  


And the list goes on. These Raiders are mentally tougher than the rest. They could have folded after giving up two goals to Chatham with 1:14 left in regulation. They didn’t. They could have quit in the locker room during the hour rain delay. They didn’t. SPF came out of the locker room of a 9-9, double-overtime game with the ball not even thinking about playing defense. These Raiders were winning it; these Raiders were doing it not only for themselves but for all the other SPF lacrosse teams that endured the loss and struggle of any program starting out. 


“We just didn’t want to not have any more time together,” Miceli said. “[During the rain delay], we let them sit for a little while and then the coaches came out of the office and we told them ‘hey, we’re in double overtime of the state championship and we have the ball.’ We said we’re going to control and we didn’t even talk about playing defense. We said, ‘Let’s just go down and score.”’


Miceli is now a career 125-73 as head coach of the Raiders. His program has climbed the mountain and it’s here to stay. 


When people talk about storybook endings, this Raiders team is the perfect example. When Miceli and his staff were hired ten years ago, he told athletic director Ryan Miller: give us ten years. Miceli has known the seniors since elementary school; these seniors have played together and have been close friends since elementary school. 


“We’ve been playing with each other since fourth grade, maybe even earlier,” Kloepfer said. “We all stayed public, we all just wanted to play with each other.” 


There was no other appropriate ending to this group of seniors’ lacrosse careers in SPF than a state championship.


And the best part, in the words of Miceli, “We’re practicing on Monday.”  


Raider fans everywhere, rejoice.