Being undefeated in May is nothing new for Washington-Lee. If the Generals take care of business against Jefferson, Annandale and South Lakes this coming week, it will mark their third straight regular season without a loss.
Yet the top-ranked Generals want desperately to avoid what happened to them the last two years. Their 2014 season concluded with agonizing defeats against T.C. Williams in the region and state finals, and their 2015 campaign vaporized in a stunning upset against McLean in the first round of the Conference 6 tournament.
This year, Washington-Lee (8-0-2, 4-0-2 Conference 6) believes it’s primed more than ever to capture its first state title. Senior striker Maycol Nunez, who broke his leg with three regular-season games remaining last year, leads the team with 13 goals and appears to be nearing top form as he recovers from a hamstring injury. The 2014 All-Met Player of the Year has netted five goals in the Generals’ last three outings, including the winner in a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Yorktown last week.
What really makes this year’s Washington-Lee squad scary, though, is the addition of Lucas Mendes, a D.C. United Academy standout and U-20 U.S. National Team call-up who opted to give high school soccer a try in his senior year.
“I just thought it was important for me to help my school and my community not only on the field but off the field,” said Mendes, who has six goals this season. “I wanted to win a state championship for my school, and we’re working hard to do that.”
Mendes, a Virginia commit, harnesses uncommon skill in his slender, compact frame. His quickness and nose for goal allow him to knife between defenders and create scoring opportunities, making him an ideal complement to Nunez up top. Unlike in academy, Mendes is finding defenses man-marking him in every game at the high school level, which tends to free up Nunez in the attacking third.
“It’s an adjustment not scoring every game, but you start to realize, ‘Okay, I’m doing this for the better of the team,’ ” Mendes said. “People are looking at me, and other players are getting open because of what I’m creating, even off the ball.”
Still, Mendes and company have yet to hit their stride. Fairfax (5-4-1) is the only opponent with a winning record the Generals have beaten so far, as they conceded late goals against Langley (7-0-3) and McLean (6-3-2) to come away with two ties.
That 1-1 tie against Langley especially stung, since Washington-Lee was eager to establish itself with a marquee win against the defending 6A state champions.
“We really wanted to come out and make a statement, but we weren’t able to do that,” Washington-Lee Coach Jimmy Carrasquillo said. “I really want them on our field.”
Carrasquillo’s boys play on a field that is considerably wider than most soccer surfaces in the area, giving them more space to get the ball wide as defenses struggle to clog the middle against Mendes and Nunez. The prospect of locking down home-field advantage gives the Arlington juggernaut huge incentive to win these next three regular season contests and secure the top seed in Conference 6. But one slip-up could hand the reins to Langley (3-0-3 Conference 6) or McLean (4-1-1), who are set for a crucial showdown on Wednesday.
“Our season ends next Monday,” Carrasquillo said, “and then the real season begins the following Thursday.”
Thunderstorms postponed games across the area on Monday and Tuesday. . . . Washington-Lee senior Benhur Gebretensaie cleaned up a loose ball off a corner kick with five minutes left in regulation to lift the Generals to a 3-2 win over Fairfax last Thursday. . . . Oakton secured the top seed in Conference 5 with a 2-1 win over Westfield. . . . T.C. Williams’ game against Woodson was called off in the 64th minute Monday, but the Titans were declared 2-1 winners since a full half had been completed. . . . George Mason has outscored its 1A-3A competition 65-0 this season. . . . Robinson snapped a five-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over Briar Woods last Friday. . . . Jefferson goalkeeper Liam Kenefick suffered a knee injury during the Colonials’ 1-0 win over South Lakes that could keep the sophomore out for the rest of the season. The Colonials have surrendered just one goal in their last five outings. They face Washington-Lee on Wednesday.
1. Washington-Lee (8-0-2) Last week: 1
2. Oakton (9-0-1) LW: 2
3. Langley (7-0-3) LW: 3
4. Battlefield (11-1-1) LW: 4
5. Forest Park (9-1) LW: 5
6. West Potomac (9-1-1) LW: 6
7. T.C. Williams (11-1) LW: 7
8. George Mason (11-0) LW: 8
9. Lake Braddock (8-3) LW: 10
10. Broad Run (9-2-1) LW: NR
Dropped out: Briar Woods (8-3-2)
Records through Tuesday.