When the DeSales High School girls soccer team arrived at Zanesville for its Division II regional final Nov. 3, the Stallions experienced deja vu.
"We just pulled up and we said, 'Oh my gosh, it seems like we were just here,'" senior midfielder Sierra Mergliano said, referring to a regional final against Richmond Edison at the same stadium in 2011, which the Stallions won 7-0. "We knew we couldn't underestimate any team. Last year wasn't as hard as this year. We told everyone we needed to come in serious and strong."
Mergliano did her part against Millersburg West Holmes, scoring an insurance goal to secure a 2-0 victory and put DeSales into the state tournament for the second consecutive year and ninth time overall.
Senior forward Alvi Shivley scored in the final two minutes of the first half and Mergliano scored off a corner kick about 15 minutes into the second half. Junior midfielder Lydia Burke had the assist.
"We work hard on our corner kicks, directs and indirects," said coach Bob McGee, whose team improved to 14-7-1. "We know if we can get those corner kicks, we feel confident we can score on them. We got the corner then had a great service across (that) Lydia Burke put in a great spot, back side over top of the keeper, and Sierra Mergliano came through and knocked it down. You couldn't write it up any better."
Shivley also had the winning goal in the Stallions' 1-0 regional semifinal win over Hillsboro on Nov. 1 at Upper Arlington. DeSales peppered Hillsboro goalkeeper Rachel Sexton with 18 shots before Shivley snuck the winner above Sexton and to her right in the final two minutes.
A similar pattern played out against West Holmes. Much of that game was played in DeSales' offensive end, and the offense took a while to punch through.
"The first half is always our shaky half," Shivley said after the Hillsboro game. "(In) the second half, we usually pull through. We get more confident."
DeSales played Cincinnati Indian Hill in a state semifinal Nov. 6. The winner plays Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit or Toledo St. Ursula in the state final at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, at Crew Stadium.
The Stallions defeated St. Ursula 3-0 in last year's state final, three days after St. Ursula upset Walsh Jesuit, the 2010 Division I state champions, 1-0 in a semifinal. Walsh Jesuit defeated DeSales 3-0 on Oct. 6.
"Now that we're in this position, we need to come out strong," Mergliano said. "We do team bonding all the time and we've become really close. We know what we need to do."
Volleyball team wins regional title
For the first time since 2004, the girls volleyball team is in the state tournament.
Kenya Cason had 14 points, 11 kills and 10 aces, Bella Guanciale was 10-for-11 serving with six points and three aces and Erika Brown had 11 aces as the Stallions swept Dover 25-20, 25-15, 25-21 in a Division II regional final Nov. 3 at Zanesville.
It was the program's fifth regional championship. DeSales lost in a regional final last year 25-22, 25-22, 18-25, 26-24 to Mansfield Madison.
"It was kind of a calm celebration," coach Kelly Morgan said. "I think they know our toughest games are still ahead of us. We played well, but we know we have some things to clean up."
DeSales (26-2) plays Cleveland Heights Beaumont (20-7) in a state semifinal at 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, at Wright State University. The winner plays Norwalk (26-2) or Kettering Alter (21-9) in the state final at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at Wright State.
"Right now, we're all in the mental state of knowing we have (two) more (matches) to go," said Cason, a senior outside hitter. "Now we're just a strong team. We know each other's strengths and weaknesses. We can pull each other up during games."
DeSales also defeated Fairfield Union 25-8, 25-17, 28-26 in a regional semifinal Oct. 31 at Zanesville.