Cherokee's Ryan Raftery is poised for a big lacrosse season

Cherokee’s Ryan Raftery (left) runs with the ball against Lenape’s Zach Cole.

The scar is no bigger than a quarter. But it’s still obvious and easy to spot on the inside of Ryan Raftery’s right wrist, even as he’s twisting his fist in a circle to prove it’s OK.

“At this point,” he said, “I’m good. I have full range of motion.”

Raftery says he started this season at full strength — which is easy to believe for anyone who’s seen him play.

His Cherokee boys’ lacrosse team opened with back-to-back games against Lenape and Moorestown, arguably the top two teams in South Jersey. The games were both losses for the Chiefs. But two things were evident.

First, Cherokee isn’t that far off — the Chiefs can play with these elite programs.

And second, Raftery is poised for a monster season. He scored five goals against Lenape on opening day and three against Moorestown on Saturday. It conjured images of what he might be able to do against teams that don’t field several all-state caliber players.

Chiefs coach Pete Corelli offered insight.

“He can do it all for us,” Corelli said. “He’s been nothing but a positive and a great addition.”
Raftery, a shifty senior midfielder, missed his entire junior season after falling awkwardly during a soccer game and breaking the scaphoid bone in his right wrist.

He continued to play with the injury through soccer season and didn’t raise much concern over it until lacrosse preseason season started — in a sport that actually requires regular movement of his hand.

He realized he couldn’t execute basic stick movements without pain. He found out it was broken in December 2016 and underwent surgery that involved having a screw inserted.

“It was hard on me,” Raftery said. The doctors “wanted to wait until it was completely healed until I could play again. So there was definitely a lot of time spent working my way back, practicing with one hand, throwing it against the wall.

“But all it really did was make me that much hungrier to come back.”

Raftery has long been regarded as one of the area’s top lacrosse recruits.

He plays for South Shore Lacrosse, one of the best club teams in South Jersey. And despite missing his junior season — a crucial year in the college recruitment process — he has committed to play for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute next year.

Watching him play, it’s easy to see why his junior year didn’t cost him as much as one might expect. “I just need to get the ball in my hands,” Raftery said, “And then I can really work with it.”

Corelli praised Raftery’s ability to stay involved through his injury. He would keep score during games, ask questions and offer suggestions at practice.

And when this preseason hit, “he was there leading our weight training, and you could tell he was hungry” Corelli said. “He’s ready to seize the moment.”

At 5-foot-7, Raftery excels at creating for himself. But being injured, he said, helped him work on the mental side of the game. He wants to create more for his teammates, he wants to be a leader.

“I definitely want to score a lot. But I want to do more than that,” Raftery said. “I want to lead the team in assists — so that’s something I’m working on. I want to help us be a better team.”