The DeSales High School girls soccer team knew defending its Division II state championship would be difficult given that it has a considerably different roster than a year ago and that it has the proverbial target on its back.
But the Stallions again find themselves rising to the occasion in the postseason.
After finishing the regular season 8-7-1 and earning the second seed in the district tournament, DeSales won its second consecutive district championship, defeating top-seeded Granville 1-0 in overtime Oct. 27 at Gahanna.
Courtney Klosterman scored off a corner kick with 10 minutes, 15 seconds left in overtime to send the Stallions into a regional semifinal against Hillsboro on Oct. 30 at Upper Arlington. The winner faces Dover or Millersburg West Holmes in a regional final at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at Zanesville.
The regional champion plays Bellbrook, Cincinnati Indian Hill, Cincinnati McNicholas or Kettering Alter in a state semifinal Nov. 6.
DeSales defeated Alter 2-0 in a state semifinal last year before beating Toledo St. Ursula 2-0 in the state final. The Stallions lost seven players from a year ago to graduation.
"It's hard when you have all the accolades that we had," coach Bob McGee said. "We became a big game for everybody (and) even though it's not the same team that played last year, people expect you to do the same things. We just went out and tried to play one game at a time. We knew if we did the little things (that) it is going to show up. For us to get back here and win another district title is big because it's really hard to win the district."
Corner kicks have proven fruitful all season for the Stallions, who were 12-7-1 before facing Hillsboro.
"We work a lot on corner kicks and we've scored a lot of goals that way," said McGee, whose team shut out Hartley 3-0 in a district semifinal Oct. 24. "We knew we needed to take advantage of that situation because when you kick it in there, you never know what's going to happen. We pushed a lot of players forward and we were able to get a great pass. We put the ball in a good area and it was a good scrum. We went hard for the ball and it knocked around. We were just fortunate to put it in."
Volleyball team wins district title
The girls volleyball team swept CCL rival and defending state champion Hartley in a Division II district final Oct. 27, defeating the Hawks 25-20, 25-22, 37-35 at Worthington Christian Middle School to win its second consecutive district title.
The Stallions improved to 24-2 and advanced to a regional semifinal against Fairfield Union on Oct. 31 at Zanesville. The winner plays Dover or New Philadelphia in a regional final at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at Zanesville.
The regional champion plays Canfield, Cleveland Heights Beaumont, Mentor Lake Catholic or Tallmadge in a state semifinal at 2 p.m. Nov. 8 at Wright State University.
Mentor Lake Catholic won the state championship in 2010 and Beaumont reached a state semifinal last year before falling to Hartley, 22-25, 29-27, 25-22, 25-22.
Before last year, DeSales, which split two meetings with Hartley during the regular season, hadn't won a district title since 2004. The Stallions advanced to a regional final last season, losing 25-22, 25-22, 18-25, 26-24 to Mansfield Madison.
Boys soccer team loses in district final
The boys soccer team's five-year streak of district championships ended with a 2-1 loss to top-seeded Bexley in a Division II district final Oct. 27 at Westerville North.
Jacob Cini scored two second-half goals to lead Bexley and sophomore Peter Marth scored for the fourth-seeded Stallions, who finished 8-7-4.
DeSales also lost to Bexley in a district final in 2006, 1-0 in double overtime. That season marked the previous time the Stallions failed to advance to regional play.
"We have a tough schedule and our record reflects that," coach Domenic Romanelli said.
"Coming into this game, I thought we were better prepared because of who we played (mostly Division I teams and some Division II state powers, including defending champion Dayton Carroll). Our schedule lets me know what we need to work on, but that didn't matter tonight. Bexley took it to us."
DeSales defeated Heath 7-0 in a district semifinal Oct. 23, as senior Ali Sidibeh and junior Jordan Brooks each had two goals and the Stallions had 28 shots on goal.
The Stallions lose eight seniors in Sidibeh (forward), Grant Brimmer (goalkeeper), Ivan Dominguez (outside midfielder), Jack Flora (defender), Anthony Holton (defender), Nick Rhinehart (midfielder), Oswaldo Sanchez (defender) and Anthony Stranges (defender).
Expected returnees include Brooks (outside midfielder), Marth (forward), juniors Mack Beidler (defender), Thomas Gorman (goalie), Harrison Hott (defender) and Dante Pezzutti (outside midfielder), sophomores Lucas Agin (forward/midfielder) and Jared Pressley (midfielder) and freshman Antonio Romanelli (midfielder).
Sidibeh, who scored a team-high 11 goals, was named first-team all-CCL and second-team all-district. Brimmer, Flora, Romanelli, Sanchez and Stranges also were first-team all-league and Pressley was second-team all-league. Brimmer and Flora were first-team all-district.
Romanelli scored six goals for the Stallions, who went 2-1-1 in the CCL to tie Watterson for second, behind St. Charles (4-0) and ahead of Hartley (1-3) and Ready (0-4).
Boys runners end season at regional
The boys cross country team scored 376 points to finish last in the 16-team Division II regional meet Oct. 27 at Pickerington North.
Ian Lawson led the Stallions, placing 54th of 131 runners in 18 minutes, 1.57 seconds. Dylan Griffin finished 83rd (18:31.68), followed by Creighton Barrett (85th, 18:35.34), Anthony Hayes (117th, 19:34.34), Thomas Gorman (119th, 19:37.59), Jake Eubanks (129th, 22:35.75) and Grant Gabel (131st, 23:52.3).
The top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced to the state meet Saturday, Nov. 3, at National Trail Raceway.
Granville won the regional title with 44 points, with Proctorville Fairland (137), Chillicothe Unioto (147) and West Holmes (149) also advancing to state. Thornville Sheridan's Matt Bromley was first in 16:15.7 and Caledonia River Valley's Wyatt Uresti (17:00.57) secured the final individual state-qualifying berth.
The girls team was represented in the Division I regional meet by Michelle Seiffert. The senior, who also is a member of the girls soccer team, finished 65th of 118 runners in 20:55.81. Leah Wallace of Reynoldsburg was first in 18:44.9 and Westerville North's Haley Sandvik (19:24.64) secured the 16th and final individual state-qualifying spot.
Playoff streak ends for football team
For the first time since 1993, the football team won't be competing in the postseason.
The Stallions, who had made the playoffs 18 consecutive seasons, lost 49-20 at Charleston (W.Va.) George Washington on Oct. 26 to finish 5-5 and ninth in the Division III, Region 10 computer ratings. The top eight teams in each region made the playoffs.
DeSales had won four of its previous five games after losing three of its first four, but the Stallions gave up 35 second-half points to George Washington, including 21 in the fourth quarter.
George Washington improved to 7-2.
Oliver Grimard scored on a 27-yard interception return in the second quarter but the Stallions missed the extra point and trailed 14-6 at halftime. Tyler West scored on a 12-yard run in the third quarter but DeSales failed on its running play on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt and trailed 28-12 after three quarters.
Quarterback Alex Perrine connected with Andrew Sparks on a 43-yard touchdown pass and the ensuing two-point conversion cut the Stallions' deficit to 28-20 with 10:40 remaining. However, George Washington scored three touchdowns over the final six minutes.
Running back J.T. Blubaugh rushed for 96 yards, Perrine was 10-for-20 passing for 165 yards and Grimard had seven catches for 99 yards.
George Washington running back Ryan Switzer, who has verbally committed to North Carolina, was held to 87 yards rushing and 48 yards receiving but scored three touchdowns and passed for another. Wide receiver Jordan Clay added 10 catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns for George Washington.