Roxbury soccer continues to roll
In watching Roxbury head coach Gary Irwin interact with his team you understand how this squad was able to turn a 1-6 start into a run to the Morris County championship game.
It's Irwin's upbeat mentality that has kept his team believing and on Monday night it snapped a four game losing streak to Randolph and improved to 8-2 in the last 10 games with a 1-0 win.
"It’s similar to last year where we started 0-3, I think we just needed some experience and of course it’s up to the boys to keep that sense of community even when things aren’t going our way," said Irwin.
Since a win over Morris Knolls back on Sept. 28 the Gaels have completely righted the ship, marching throught the first three rounds of the Morris County Tournament and punching a ticket to the championship game against Delbarton. Now Roxbury is poised to write one of the most unlikely chapters in the story of this fall season.
"It’s rare for high school kids but we never really panicked at 1-6, they kept an even composure and came to work every day knowing that what we were doing is right," Irwin said. "We felt like there was a cloud over us but eventually that cloud would go away if we could stick together."
"We focus on fun but after 1-6 no one was really having fun," explained senior Ryan Kelley. "We came together and flipped the switch, we never questioned ourselves and continued to believe in one another where most teams might not have."
Despite chances throughout the affair, the patience that has helped Roxbury to its improbable run would be what led to the game's lone goal. With 4:30 left on the clock and as he has been all season, Ryan Kelley found himself in the middle of the action pushing the ball down the right wing with a chance to set up a teammate. When Dylan Hammer came open inside the 18 Kelley made a fantastic individual effort to work the ball to Hammer for the game's best chance.
"Ryan is a throwback athlete," said Irwin. "He is hardworking and he see’s all the pictures on the field. Soccer is a game of changing pictures and he is aided by an athletic mind that also allows him to be a fantastic point guard in basketball. He just reads plays well and then is able to make quick decisions on what’s best in the situation."
Warding off two defenders Kelley would slide a perfect ball onto the foot of the senior and Hammer made no mistake tucking the ball away inside the right post. Max Moroze did well to turn aside nine previous shots by the Gaels but couldn't extend far enough to deny Hammer's well-placed effort.
Randolph had won the previous four meetings between the rivals and did have chances of its own not only to score but to equalize late in the contest, but this Roxbury team is just a different group than the one that lost 2-0 to these same Rams back on Sept. 21.
"We never put pressure on ourselves and the coaches keeping it light definitely helps," said Kelley. "Play hard and have fun like we have since five years old, that's been the key. We never lost that sense of community, of fighting for each other and now we're having a ton of fun."
Contact John Quirk at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @QuirkMedia