Girls squad expecting foes' best
The DeSales High School girls soccer team is prepared to take everyone's best shot this season after winning the Division II state championship last year.
"We cannot focus on last year because this is a new set of kids and leaders," said coach Bob McGee, who is in his second year of his second stint leading the program. "We know that every opponent is going to play their best game because they're all saying that they're playing the defending state champs. But in reality, they're not.
"That's why we have to focus on us. We have to get better each practice, take one game at a time and improve daily. The baseball team had the same pressure, but made it through by using that same approach when they began to relax and just play their game."
The Stallions return the crux of their defense, which held all eight postseason opponents scoreless last season en route to the title. They were the top seed in the district tournament and shut out Caledonia River Valley (10-0), Amanda-Clearcreek (8-0), Bexley (2-0) and Granville (1-0) to win a district championship.
DeSales then beat Chillicothe 3-0 in a regional semifinal, Richmond Edison 7-0 in a regional final and Kettering Alter 2-0 in a state semifinal before defeating Toledo St. Ursula 2-0 in the state final for its fourth title. The Stallions also won state championships in 1995, 1997 and 1998, with the 1995 title coming with McGee as coach.
Senior defender Courtney Klosterman returns after being first-team all-state and the district Player of the Year last year. Also back on defense are senior Hannah Clark and junior Maria Riley. Junior Grace Alguire rounds out the defense.
Klosterman scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Olentangy Orange in the opener Aug. 18.
"Courtney will have a lot on her shoulders this year, but her leadership is tremendous," McGee said. "We're hoping she can start the offense going forward. We're going to rely on our defense, especially early as we try to find some offense. We lost a bunch of firepower from last year."
The Stallions, who outscored their postseason opponents 34-0 a year ago, finished 18-4-2 overall and won the CCL title at 4-0, finishing ahead of Watterson (3-1), Hartley (1-2-1), Ready (1-2-1) and Columbus School for Girls (0-4).
DeSales begins league play Sept. 6 at home against Ready.
Senior Kerry McGuire, who scored on a penalty kick in the state final, is back in the midfield, as is junior Alexis Neri, who assisted on an insurance goal by 2012 graduate Alex Elliott against St. Ursula.
"Kerry played as many minutes as anyone last season and she did all the work behind the scenes, setting up an assist and shutting down the top midfielders in the state," McGee said. "She didn't get a lot of attention, but her teammates knew how hard she worked and how important her play was, which is why she's a co-captain this season with Courtney."
Also vying for playing time in the midfield are seniors Sierra Mergliano, Michelle Seiffert and Alexandra Shivley and juniors Lydia Burke, Kathleen Carpenter, Liza Hornyak, Erin Kuisti and Annamaria Pagani. Kuisti and Pagani are coming back from injuries last season.
"We have a lot of options in the midfield, so it's one of those things where we have pieces but still have to put the puzzle together," McGee said. "But we need some scoring from a few of those girls."
Some of those players may end up helping at forward, where the Stallions list only juniors Alaina Fliotsos and Xanie Fox.
Competing to replace 2012 graduate Becca Dowling-Fitzpatrick as the starting goalkeeper are first-year senior Anna Gentile, junior Chloe Biskner and sophomores Katya Barrett and Isabella Connoly.
Barrett got the start against Orange, making one save.
Also on the team are sophomore Maggie Carlos and freshmen Logan Agin, Paige Gilliland, Jenna Hohman and Gigi Howard.
Boys soccer team low on experience
The boys soccer team is coming off a season in which it made its fourth state tournament appearance in five seasons, but getting back to state may be difficult given the Stallions return only five starters.
"This is the first time I've had this few players with experience returning," sixth-year coach Domenic Romanelli said. "We're pretty young and we've got a murderous schedule. I'm wondering what I was thinking.
"But we've told the young men that we could go 8-8 in the regular season and still be ready to make a strong push into the postseason and that's all that really matters. We want to be prepared for the postseason and we've got the brutal schedule that will prepare us. Losing is OK, but we don't want any droughts because those are dangerous and we need to stay positive and improving."
Last season, the Stallions finished 13-7-2 overall, losing to Dayton Carroll 3-0 in a Division II state semifinal. They tied Watterson for second in the CCL at 2-1-1, behind St. Charles (3-1) and ahead of Hartley (1-1-2) and Ready (0-4).
Seeded second in the district, DeSales defeated Heath 9-0 in its opener, Walnut Ridge 7-0 in a semifinal and top-seeded Big Walnut 1-0 in double overtime to capture its fifth consecutive district title.
The Stallions then defeated Vincent Warren 3-0 in a regional semifinal and New Philadelphia 5-0 in a regional final before losing to Carroll.
DeSales, which outscored its postseason opponents 26-4, lost 12 players from a year ago to graduation, including the bulk of their offense. Among the graduates were midfielder/forward Ross Wanner (8 goals), forward Tarig Degraffinreed (6 goals) and midfielder Matt DiCesare (5 goals), who was district Player of the Year.
Senior forward Ali Sidibeh is the leading returning scorer after scoring seven goals a year ago. Other returning starters include senior defenders Jack Flora, Oswaldo Sanchez and Anthony Stranges and sophomore midfielder Jared Pressley.
"We're going to have a good defense with those three guys back and (senior goalkeeper) Grant Brimmer, who lettered last year while backing up A.J. Tresoline, who is playing at Dayton now," said Romanelli, whose team opened Aug. 21 against Columbus Academy and begins league play Sept. 6 at Ready. "Our big issue is going to be putting the ball in net. We've got a million midfielders and barely any forwards, so we're experimenting with a 4-5-1 (formation) because we don't want to push forward early and fall behind because we have no scoring punch yet."
Also back is senior outside midfielder Ivan Dominguez.
Others expected to play key roles are juniors Harrison Hott (defender) and Dave Pezzutti (outside midfielder), sophomore Peter Marth (forward) and freshman Antonio Romanelli (midfielder), the coach's son.
Also hoping to contribute are seniors Anthony Holton (defender) and Nick Rhinehart (midfielder), juniors Mack Beidler (defender), Jordan Brooks (outside midfielder), Thomas Gorman (goalie) and Anthony Hayes (forward) and sophomores Lucas Agin (midfielder/forward) and Matt Higgins (defender).
"This is a group like 2009 when we won the state title, in that this is a blue-collar group," coach Romanelli said. "We have no all-stars, but they all work their tails off and like to be together. We have great camaraderie and guys like Holton and Rhinehart define us because of their heart and determination to play and make things happen. Every team needs guys on the bench who are ready and hungry to play but are still excited for their teammates."