Alan Prochazka arrived on Abraham Clark High School’s soccer field ready to coach ten years ago, with only eight boys showing up for the first practice.
“Roselle had suffered through many losing seasons and very few students wanted to participate,” Prochazka recalled. “We were able to eventually recruit 17 players, mostly freshmen, to join the team and my inaugural season ended with just one win in sixteen games.
“By the second year, we were able to expand to both a varsity and JV team, but we only managed to win four games,” Prochazka added. “We made our first state tournament as a sixteenth seed in 2012 with only five wins. We didn’t make it again until 2015 and we didn’t win a state playoff game until last year.”
This year, it all changed, in drastic fashion. The Roselle Rams ended the season with an impressive record of 15W-1D-5L, as one of the top tournament seeds in Central New Jersey, second only to Holmdel, the third ranked team in the state.
The season included two wins and a quarter final loss in the Union County Tournament, that loss was only 2-0 to undefeated Scotch Plains-Fanwood, ranked fourth in the state. Another difficult loss was to the number one team in the state in Group 1, undefeated Highland Park. The team finished 10-2 in conference play.
One reason is a seasoned group of seniors, who participated in three state tournaments since 2015.
The varsity team blossomed with 13 seniors, six juniors and two sophomores. It is a tight team of diverse players, representing many cultures, including: Mexican, Haitian, Jamaican, Colombian, Ecuadorian and Sudanese. Besides English, many players on the team speak Spanish and Creole.
These players are more than just athletes. Besides their academic studies, some have jobs, work for a family business, are preparing for college entrance exams and/or participating in ROTC, with plans to enter the military.
The Roselle Rams bowed out of tournament play on Thursday, November 1, dropping a 2-1 battle to the Carteret Ramblers after leading up until the 70th minute of play.
While a disappointing loss, it capped off a tremendous season.
“This has truly been a special year,” Prochazka said. “The coaching staff was simply amazing and these boys are all friends, who love their school, the community and are incredibly respectful. This was a dream year for me, as coach. This program has come so far!”
Tuesday, November 6 The Roselle Rams had five players selected for All-Conference. Senior Jaheem Hayles was named first team All-County and Oliver Louis made a second team.
There are three conferences within Union County, Watchung, Mountain and Valley, Roselle tied Scotch Plains-Fanwood (Watchung) and Union (Mountain) for most players selected to their All-Conference teams.