Trailing 1-0 in the 65th minute against Robinson, the Mount Vernon boys soccer team played the ball down into the right corner. After Simond Kargbo passed to Ruben Alvarez, it appeared the ball was headed out of bounds.
At least, that’s what the Robinson defenders appeared to think.
Alvarez then found Dannish Dacardi-Nelson in the box for a game-tying goal as Robinson defenders seemed to relax for a brief moment. Suddenly the Majors, who had trailed for 63 minutes of the May 27 regional quarterfinal match, were a threat to end the season of another Northern Region power. Two days earlier, the Majors fell behind early against Langley, but came back to win in overtime. Could it be happening again?
"That goal right there," Mount Vernon head coach Robert Garza said, "it raised the energy level up. We saw right then and there" we could play with this team.
Mount Vernon and Robinson went to overtime, but this time it was the Majors falling short, 2-1.
For Mount Vernon, it was the end of the program’s best season since 2005. The Majors finished 11-4-2, reached the National District semifinals, advanced to the regional quarterfinals, had four players named first team all district and won non-district games against Langley, Centreville, T.C. Williams, West Potomac, Marshall and Lee.
"It’s heartbreaking," Mount Vernon’s Francisco Rodriguez said of the loss to Robinson. "We came so far. We played so good. We weren’t ready for the season to be over with. It hurts to know you’re not going to play with the same guys in the future. It’s over for us. … Nobody believed in us. They thought we were a weak team and we had nobody. They thought we would lose to Langley, but we proved them wrong."
Against Langley, which started the season 15-0, Mount Vernon fell behind in the third minute but continued to battle. Against Robinson, the Majors were in a 1-0 hole in even less time as Jose Noriega scored on a header 68 seconds into the game.
But once again, Mount Vernon didn’t get down.
"I had a smile on my face" after Robinson scored, Decardi-Nelson said. "I knew we were going to come back and persevere."
Mount Vernon figures to be a strong team in 2011. The Majors return all-region goalkeeper Lucas Belanger, who was only a freshman in 2010. They will also return freshman forward Kargbo, an all-district second-teamer, and honorable mention selections Amardo Oakley (sophomore midfielder) Nery Cruz-Lainer (junior midfielder), Damaro DaCosta (sophomore defender) and Bryan Castellon (sophomore defender). Mount Vernon also has as strong relationship with the program at Walt Whitman Middle School, according to Garza.
"We’re trying to build a program," the coach said. "This season here, with the ‘New Year, New Look, New Attitude’ [motto], I think is going to be the actual stepping stone for what we have in the future. It’s going to build our program up even more. We’ve gotten DI, DII caliber ball players coming out for soccer. The new sense that we have — we’re really disciplined, the attitude we have — it’s really going to raise our level even more."
The future looks bright for Mount Vernon. But after the loss to Robinson, it was also a time for reflection.
"We came so close together," said Rodriguez, who had just played his last game for Mount Vernon. "The chemistry is great on and off the field. … [I’ll remember] how a diverse group of students came together and formed a great soccer team and represented their school with their heads up."
Senior all-district first-teamers Decardi-Nelson and David Heller also played their final games for the Majors.