Experience will be at a premium in the early stages of the season for the DeSales High School girls basketball team.
Having lost three all-district guards, including two double-digit scorers, from last season when they went 17-8, shared the CCL championship and won a Division II district championship, the Stallions will look to 5-foot-4 senior guard Miranda Johnson to provide leadership.
DeSales, which reached a regional semifinal last season before losing to Dayton Carroll 54-33, opened Nov. 28 at Granville.
"It's a young group, but they're extremely coachable," third-year coach Brian Cromwell said. "They're young but talented. We're going to have a lot of sophomores getting significant playing time. We might even have a few freshmen getting some good experience."
Johnson, a fourth-year varsity player who earned first-team all-district honors last year, is expected to be the starting point guard. She'll have to help compensate for the combined 21.5 points lost with the graduation of guards Kelsey Albanese and Tyler Craig.
Last season, Albanese averaged 10.9 points and was first-team all-league and honorable mention and Craig, who now is playing at Bucknell University, averaged 10.6 points and was first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
Another key loss to graduation was guard McKenzie Cook, who was second-team all-district last year.
"Miranda's never really been in this kind of a leadership role, and she's looking forward to the opportunity," Cromwell said. "I can already see her being more aggressive. She has the capability to make a difference."
Other guards are junior Maggie Simon (5-6) and sophomores Jori Arnold (5-6), Carli Codner-Pinto (5-6) and Joenyia Herd-Middlebrooks (5-8). Herd-Middlebrooks also will see time as a forward with junior Nichole Tuel (5-10) and sophomore Morgan Madigan.
The Stallions, whose home opener is Wednesday, Dec. 5, against Zanesville Rosecrans, went 6-2 in the CCL last year to tie Watterson for their first league championship since 2006. Hartley (5-3) was third, followed by Ready (3-5) and Columbus School for Girls (0-8).
DeSales opens league play Dec. 12 at home against Ready.
"It's always a tough league, and it prepares teams very well for tournament runs," Cromwell said.
The Stallions were seeded seventh in the district tournament last season and defeated Licking Heights 47-15, Caledonia River Valley 52-43, fifth-seeded Eastmoor Academy 38-30 and sixth-seeded Licking Valley 44-23 in a district final before losing to Carroll.
Expectations rise for hockey team
The fact that fifth-year hockey coach Bob Heine wasn't entirely happy with a 9-5 win over Cincinnati Sycamore in a scrimmage Nov. 16 indicates his changing expectations a year after the Stallions recorded their first 20-win season.
"We could have put three or four more goals in, and I wasn't really pleased with giving up five," he said. "But we're tracking appropriately in terms of where I want us to be."
Last season, the Stallions finished 20-12-1 overall and went 9-6-1 (19 points) in the Capital Hockey Conference-Blue Division to win the league championship. Worthington Kilbourne (6-9-0-1, 13) placed second in the league, followed by Dublin Scioto (2-4, 4) and Watterson (0-14-0-2, 2).
This season, DeSales will play in the CHC-White with Olentangy Orange, St. Charles and Thomas Worthington.
The Stallions lost to Dublin Jerome 10-2 in the first round of the Blue Jackets Cup a year ago before losing to Springboro 5-4 in overtime in the first round of the district tournament.
DeSales opened in the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic held Nov. 23-25 at Chiller Dublin. The Stallions lost to Dublin Coffman 4-3 on Nov. 23 before beating Strongsville 7-5 and Cincinnati Sycamore 4-2 on Nov. 24. They played Jerome on Nov. 25.
DeSales returns most of its roster from a year ago, including senior forward Joe Gray and sophomore forward Tyler Klutch. Last season, Gray had a team-high 51 goals and Klutch scored 24.
Gray and Klutch composed two-thirds of the Stallions' top forward line with 2012 graduate Tyler McClary, who had 23 goals last year. McClary was one of four players lost to graduation, with the others being forwards Jon Cave and Connor Hines and defenseman Chad Janszen.
Gray is the team's only senior this season.
"He's a positive influence on the entire room," Heine said of Gray. "Last year, we had some high-end talent and the drop-off after that was significant. This year, it seems more even so far. But we're still trying to put the pieces together."
The rest of the forwards are juniors Thomas Gorman and Danny Helin, sophomores Tyler Barrett, Hunter Chapman and Nate Thatcher and freshmen Justin Antoncic, Alex Graver, Sam Gray, Nick Leonard and Nick Musci.
The Stallions have six defensemen in juniors Hunter Chapman, Kyle Ghiloni, Grant Howard and Josh Van Cuyk and freshmen Dane Geitter and Nick McClary. Junior goaltender Ben Risinger is in his third season as a starter. His backup is junior Roberto Bahensky.