From a young age, Cheshire High School’s Jason Raba has been raised to play the game of lacrosse.
His father John has coached the sport for the last 25 years at Wesleyan University, while Jason’s older brother Jack shined for the CHS Rams and now competes at Wesleyan.
“My dad has been my biggest coach throughout my life. If I have any questions, he can help me,” said Raba. “Jack has always tried to push me in the right direction. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from watching my brother play.”
With the assistance and support of his family, he has realized a goal of being able to play his favorite sport on the next level. As a junior last year, Raba verbally committed to compete at St. John’s University in New York.
“I’m super excited. St. John’s is a strong program headed in the right direction,” stated Raba.
Raba also considered Merrimack College (Massachusetts) and University of Massachusetts-Lowell, but said that he chose St. John’s for the location, academics, and career possibilities.
“I want to be a business major,” said Raba. “St. John’s is right in New York City, so it appealed to me to have internship opportunities.”
For lacrosse, the Red Storm compete for Head Coach Jason Miller.
“In the Big East Conference, you are playing against the top teams in the nation,” stated Raba.
Cheshire boys’ head coach Mike Devine believes St. John’s is a good fit for Raba.
“He has put in the time to earn the opportunity to play at the next level,” said Devine. “Jason wants to be great and he wants the same for his teammates.”
Since his father coaches in college, Raba believes that he will have a good idea of what to expect. Three years ago, John Raba led Wesleyan men’s lacrosse to their first NCAA Division III crown.
“He is very knowledgeable about the sport,” stated Raba. “My dad has helped me perfect my craft into what it is today.”
Raba has dreamed of playing college lacrosse since he was a youngster. As a first grader, he was able to move up and begin playing with third graders in Cheshire.
“I’ve always had a passion for the sport,” reflected Raba. “I love the creativity in the game. There are a thousand moves you can learn in practice.”
To start off, Raba bounced around playing on defense and in goal, but found his niche in moving to attack in fourth or fifth grade.
“I like the offensive mindset and being able to score goals and set up other people,” explained Raba. “I think there are a lot of strategies that goes into offense. You can manipulate the game how you like.”
In middle school, Raba went to Hamden Hall and reclassified to repeat his eighth grade year.
“I got an extra year of experience,” recalled Raba. “The (lacrosse) coaches were great.”
While enjoying his experience in Hamden, he wanted to returned to his hometown for high school and follow in his older brother’s footsteps as a Cheshire football and lacrosse player.
Despite having an anterior cruciate ligament injury, Jack Raba was a three-year starter and co-captain in both of his sports at CHS. He started his college lacrosse career at Loyola University (Maryland) and then transferred to Wesleyan last year.
“I always knew that I wanted to play sports at Cheshire like my brother did,” stated Raba. “Seeing him play in college made me want to have that opportunity.”
As a freshman, Raba injured his shoulder playing football and the injury impacted him playing lacrosse that year.
“That experience motivated me to get to the varsity level,” stated Raba.
Leading into his sophomore year, Raba played extensively in the summer, but he was disappointed to see that the 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“That was obviously tough. I lost a season, but so did everyone else in the state,” said Raba.
With not being able to play last spring, he felt that he gained a deeper appreciation for his favorite sport.
“You are not born with the right to play lacrosse,” explained Raba. “It is something that I’m blessed to do every day.”
Last summer, Raba was happy to play games again. He grew up competing for the Boneyard Lacrosse Program out of Yale University, but when the club shut down last year, he switched over to Team Connecticut.
With the change, he got to compete for Devine on the club level.
“He has been a big mentor for my game,” reflected Raba. “It has been nice having the same coach in the summer and spring.”
This year, Raba got to play his first spring season for Devine. As a junior starter, he tallied his first 57 varsity points (40 goals, 17 assists).
Raba enjoyed competing with senior co-captain Brian Bouwman (45 goals, 33 assists) and sophomore Charles Kurtz (42, 37) on attack.
“It was awesome,” said Raba. “This was an exciting season to watch and even better to play on the field.”
The Rams posted a 14-5 record and made the Southern Connecticut Conference and Class L tournaments. In states, CHS pulled out a 12-11 win over Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference foe Fairfield Ludlowe to reach the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2017.
“Getting past the first round against an FCIAC team was a great feeling,” recalled Raba. “We showed that we can play lacrosse with anyone in the state.”
This summer, Raba continued to develop his skills with Team Connecticut. The program goes outside the state to play teams from places like Florida, Maryland, and Long Island.
“I think it will help me to have played against the top (defensive) poles in the country,” Raba said. “I didn’t play in many events this year because I’ve already committed for college.”
With the season finished, Raba is now getting set to play his senior year with Cheshire football. In 2019, the Rams went 8-3 and reached the state playoffs for the first time in 10 years, but because of health concerns last fall, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference chose to not sponsor tackle football in the 2020-21 academic year.
With restrictions lessened this year, the CIAC is currently planning to have a normal season. Organized team activities will run from Aug. 12-14 and full-pad practices are set to kick off on Aug. 21.
“It has been way too long since I was on a football field,” state Raba. “My sophomore year was great for the program and I think that we would have been better last year if we were able to play.”
Cheshire has graduated 20 players, but Raba feels that the Rams still have a lot of talent coming back this fall.
“We had a great senior class last year. We will make them proud,” stated Raba. “I’m excited for their futures.”
Right now, Raba expects to play at defensive end this season.
“We are going to have a physical and strong team. I’m excited to play again,” Raba said.
In his final football season, he looks forward to playing before Cheshire’s home crowd at Alumni Field.
“It is an exciting thought,” stated Raba. “I still remember the first time that I ran out under the lights and I had so much adrenaline. There are not a lot of environments like Ram Land. We have built something special.”
Following the fall season, Raba plans to prepare to play for Cheshire lacrosse in 2022.
“I’m pumped for next season. I think we have a great team coming up,” stated Raba. “It is exciting to keep working. I want to leave my mark in Cheshire.”