My Linh Li of the DeSales High School girls tennis team could have left the Division II state tournament Oct. 20 at Elysium Tennis Center in Plain City dejected.
The senior's 6-0, 6-2 loss in the singles championship match to Hartley's Rachael Morales was her fourth in five matches this season against her CCL rival. But the legacy Li leaves -- three top-three state finishes in singles in as many state appearances -- left her and coach Anthony Tienprasid smiling.
"I can leave here knowing I gave it my all," Li said. "Rachael is just a great player. I don't think she missed anything. Her passing shots were just awesome, and she made me hit so many extra balls with the way she moved the ball around the court."
Morales had only seven unforced errors, three of which were double faults.
"It's tough to think about how it ended, but as far as what (Li) did here -- finishing first in doubles (in 2009 with her sister, Kim My Li), third in singles (in 2011) and now second, you can't ask for much more," Tienprasid said.
Li, who is unsure if she will play in college, defeated Isabel Quinones of Rocky River 6-0, 6-1 in the first round at state, beat Haley Thoresen of Cincinnati Wyoming 6-3, 6-2 in the second round and upset defending state champion Rachel Nelson of Millersburg West Holmes 6-4, 6-4 in a semifinal.
"Against Rachel Nelson, My Linh was sky-high," Tienprasid said. "She had Rachel on the ropes quite a bit. She was aggressive and moved around the court a lot and pressed Rachel to make a lot of hard shots.
"Rachael Morales played great, but it's not like My Linh didn't play well. Rachael had seven unforced errors that whole match, and it's hard to beat a girl who's on her game like that."
Li defeated Morales 7-5, 6-3 in the district final Oct. 13 at Columbus School for Girls.
Last year at state, Li lost 6-1, 6-3 in a semifinal against Nelson but rebounded to beat Cincinnati Country Day's Danielle Wolf 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the consolation match.
Boys runners, Seiffert advance to regional
Ian Howard placed 10th in 17 minutes, 53.59 seconds to lead the boys cross country team to a fourth-place finish in the 12-team Division II, district 1 meet Oct. 20 at Watkins Memorial and a berth in the regional meet Saturday, Oct. 27, at Pickerington North.
Also competing for the Stallions were Dylan Griffin (22nd, 18:34.49). Creighton Barrett (26th, 18:42.41), Thomas Gorman (31st, 19:03.69), Anthony Hayes (37th, 19:20.11), Jake Eubanks (73rd, 22:11.76) and Jacob Cudnik (76th, 22:47.22). DeSales scored 126 points to finish behind Granville (16), Whitehall (91) and Bexley (93), as the top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced to regional.
"I told the guys before the race we had an opportunity to do something today," said Howard, a junior. "I told them we were in a position to make it, but let's go out there and get it. They all performed beautifully."
The girls team scored 193 points and placed sixth in the 15-team Division I, district 2 meet, finishing 82 points behind the final regional qualifier, fifth-place Olentangy Liberty (111). Also qualifying for regional were Dublin Coffman (31), Hilliard Bradley (86), Gahanna (95) and Pickerington North (106).
Freshman Michelle Seiffert led the Stallions, placing 12th in 20:29.3 to qualify for regional as the top 20 individuals advanced.
Also competing were Kristin Faulkner (26th, 21:13.44), Andrea Coffey (30th, 21:20.18), Jenna Melvin (59th, 23:02.02), Kara Hoying (66th, 23:35.75), Eliza Cargin (80th, 24:28.62) and Bailey Cadena (81st, 24:32.75).
The top four teams and top 16 individuals in each regional race qualify for the state meet Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway.
"We had a freshman come out of nowhere this season," coach Bob Lennon said of Seiffert. "We have some new kids making big contributions. I like these teams."
Football team faces must-win in finale
The football team took a big step toward its 19th consecutive playoff berth by beating Cincinnati LaSalle 48-21 on Oct. 19.
It marked the Stallions' fourth win in five games and improved their overall record to 5-4. Their only loss since getting off to a 1-3 start came Oct. 12 when they fell to host Watterson 24-21 in three overtimes.
Against LaSalle, running back J.T. Blubaugh rushed 22 times for 135 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Alex Perrine ran for 108 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries and completed eight of 14 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
The Stallions close the regular season Friday, Oct. 26, at Charleston (W.Va.) George Washington, which is 6-2 and provides the same points as a Division II school.
George Washington is 50-13 since 2006 and went 13-1 last season, with its only loss coming to Martinsburg (W.Va.), 35-27 in the Class AAA state final.
George Washington features running back Ryan Switzer, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior who has verbally committed to the University of North Carolina. Switzer is expected to be a slot receiver in college but rushed for 2,785 yards and 40 touchdowns last year.
DeSales must beat George Washington and get help from other teams to secure a playoff berth. The Stallions were ninth in the Division II, Region 10 computer ratings through eight games but were expected to fall to 10th after week nine despite beating LaSalle. The top eight teams in each region make the playoffs.