Prior to the start of the 2011 season, members of the Washington-Lee boys soccer program recognized an opportunity to thrive. The team had a talented core of athletes returning, and the Generals were dedicated to offseason conditioning.
The previous year, W-L finished 10-5-2, advanced to the semifinals of the National District Tournament and qualified for regionals. While 2010 was a successful season, the Generals knew they were capable of more.
"I knew we were going to have the most talent we’ve had for these three seasons that I’ve been on the team," junior forward Eric Schmidt said. "But honestly, it’s been our work rate. All the team knows that we have this potential, so we just kept working."
With the first month of the 2011 season in the books, W-L’s record of 8-1-1 is one of the best in the Northern Region. The Generals sit atop the National District standings at 5-0, including a 2-0 victory over previously undefeated Mount Vernon on April 13. W-L has outscored its opponents 46-8, including 27-1 in district competition, and have scored four or more goals in six of 10 games. The team is averaging 4.6 goals per game and 5.4 per district contest.
While the Generals expected success, their level of dominance has been a pleasant surprise.
"From the beginning, we knew we had a very strong team," senior midfielder Luis Torres said. "We just didn’t know we were going to score so many goals."
W-L’s final game before spring break came against a Mount Vernon team ranked No. 40 nationally in the ESPNRISE.com Powerade FAB 50 spring soccer poll. The Generals’ two-goal output was their second-lowest of the season, but two goals were more than enough as W-L notched its fifth shutout. Schmidt put the Generals on the board in the 27th minute, when he headed the ball in the goal before colliding with Mount Vernon keeper Lucas Belanger. Schmidt sat out the final 13 minutes of the first half as a precaution.
Senior midfielder "Keith Ricks played me a great ball and it took a couple bounces," Schmidt said "The keeper came out and I thought I might as well just contest for it. Luckily, it went in."
Schmidt said the Generals played with a high energy level — something that had been improving throughout the season.
"Honestly, we’ve just been building up every single game," he said. "We’ve been progressing and every single game we’ve been improving. We just keep getting better and better and especially with this game, we really brought it all. We knew we had to get up for it. Some of our other games haven’t been as challenging. We’ve kind of gotten a little relaxed, but we try not to get complacent."
Schmidt is one of four team captains, along with senior defender Alex Salguero, senior goalkeeper Robert Dewald and junior defender Jack Beckman.
"He’s not crafty — he’s not going to do eight step-overs and beat you — but he’s a hard-working kid and he goes for 80 minutes," W-L head coach Jimmy Carrasquillo said of Schmidt. "A lot of these guys, they respect him and know he’s a good kid. He’s going to run for 80 minutes, he’s going to go for every ball."
Torres scored W-L’s second goal off an assist from Schmidt in the 60th minute.
"He’s come into his own this year," Carrasquillo said of Torres. "He’s really turned it around."
Carrasquillo said Ricks and senior forward Carlos Dellagostino have also played well.
W-L’s last district title came in 2006, when the Generals finished 15-1-2 and reached the regional quarterfinals. Carrasquillo said the 2006 team is the best he’s coached in 12 years at W-L, but this year’s team has a chance to contend for that title. He said the 2011 Generals show similarities to the 2006 squad, including a strong desire to win and team unity.
While W-L has dominated many of its opponents, the Generals haven’t been invincible. They played to a scoreless tie against Thomas Jefferson on March 18 and lost to Oakton, 4-3, on April 1 (the Oakton game was W-L’s fourth in seven days). Carrasquillo will attempt to keep the Generals focused as they approach the postseason. The team’s first game back from spring break will be at 7 p.m. on April 29 at Edison.
"We’ve got to keep working," Carrasquillo said. "Just because we’re going to step on the field, [opponents aren’t going to say] ‘Oh look, it’s W-L, they’re going to beat us 5-0.’ They’re going to be prepared for us. … Because I see the potential of it, I don’t let them rest."