One strike, one reckless rip at the target, was all it took to vindicate Maycol Nunez. After the gut-wrenching defeats in the region and state finals that capped his sophomore year and the gruesome leg injury that sundered his junior year, Washington-Lee’s goal-happy senior savored a delicious blast that wiped away all the pain at Yorktown on Monday night.
Racing down the right channel in the 60th minute, Nunez shook a defender, dribbled across the box and unleashed a rocket with his left foot — the same foot weakened by a vicious, leg-breaking slide tackle last spring — that bore through the air and into the top of the net to give Washington-Lee a two-goal lead in the Virginia 6A North region championship. The inch-perfect strike ended any hopes of a Yorktown comeback and propelled the Generals to a clinical 3-0 victory over their Arlington rivals, marking their first region title since 1972.
“Since last night I was thinking about those losses sophomore year,” said Nunez, who was the All-Met Player of the Year as a sophomore. “I hate losing, especially in the finals. Nobody wants to lose in those big games.”
Nunez spent Sunday night and Monday morning poring over game tape from his team’s previous meeting against Yorktown, a 3-2 upset on Washington-Lee’s home field two weeks ago in the Conference 6 title game. Nunez’s attacking partner, Lucas Mendes, did the same, trying to figure out how the upstart Patriots (11-6-3) handed his squad its first defeat of the season.
“We looked back on that first game and saw we came out flat,” Mendes said. “Me and Maycol didn’t combine well enough in the final third.”
Mendes and Nunez overcame that problem shortly after the opening whistle Monday night. The two seniors played a give-and-go on the left flank that saw Nunez’s leading pass creep just a bit too far for his streaking teammate, but Nunez later pointed to that sequence as the moment he knew things would be different.
Washington-Lee’s standout forwards entered Monday’s game with 40 goals between them, two more than Yorktown scored as a team all season. Still, it was a different player that put the Generals (16-1-2) ahead in the 23rd minute.
Nunez took a headed flick-on and fired from point-blank range, but Yorktown goalkeeper Hayden Kickbush denied him with a diving kick save. The rebound rolled to junior midfielder Thomas Odlum, who took a touch, glanced up at his target and ripped one past Kickbush to notch his first goal of the season and put the visitors in front.
After Nunez’s strike, Mendes added a penalty kick in the 63rd minute.
The Generals face Virginia 6A South runner-up Grassfield in a state semifinal on Friday at Robinson while Yorktown will play First Colonial.
“We’ve talked about all the accolades and this and that, but that doesn’t mean anything,” Washington-Lee Coach Jimmy Carrasquillo said. “[Nunez] just wants a ring, a state championship ring. That’s what he’s been working towards.”