The DeSales High School boys volleyball team was ranked third in the Division II state poll last week behind Mount Vernon and Middletown Fenwick.
That's not the accolade that the Stallions are seeking, however.
"We are trying to go to the state tournament and do well. That's our goal," junior setter Keegan Crawford said. "But we have to make sure we improve on everything. We've been talking about our ranking a little bit and it's great that we're ranked. We've never been this good before."
In their fifth season, the Stallions were 9-2 overall before playing Gahanna on April 22 and were 2-0 in the CCL before playing Watterson on April 24. Their only two losses came against Fenwick (25-21, 25-16) and Dayton Carroll (25-23, 27-29, 26-24) in the Greater Catholic League Challenge on April 13 in Dayton.
DeSales also faced two-time defending Division II state champion Kettering Alter in the event, defeating the Knights 25-19, 25-21. Alter was seventh in the state poll last week and Carroll was 10th.
"I'd rather go through the (reg-ular) season with a couple losses than get to the playoffs and not know what it's like to be in a tough match," senior right-side hitter Michael Hippler said. "That's what we need right now -- good, quality competition."
Through 12 matches, sophomore outside hitter Evan Feltz had 103 kills, a .719 hitting percentage and 45 aces, Crawford had 235 assists and 11 aces and junior middle hitter Hunter Walsh had 51 kills and nine blocks with a .672 hitting percentage.
"We're ahead of where I thought we would be from an athletic standpoint," said coach Andy Feltz, who has overseen the program since its inception in 2009. "I really didn't know if we'd be able to get the ball to all of our weapons, and Keegan is doing such a nice job. He's leading the team and he's not a natural leader. I still think we're behind in ball control, so we have to do a better job when the ball is coming to our back row or getting the ball to Keegan more consistently."
The program generally has improved throughout its existence. DeSales won five matches in 2009, 10 in 2010, eight in 2011 and finished 12-9 last year after a 6-0 start. This season, a program-record 30 players tried out for the team.
Coach Feltz delivered a somewhat strict postgame talk to the players after a 25-22, 25-17, 25-13 win at St. Charles on April 18. The teams exchanged leads early in each game, but the Stallions used hard serves and crisper passes to widen their lead.
"We were going to have a fun practice (April 19), but now I'm not so sure," he said, smiling. "We have won enough matches this year to have a little bit of a target. The other (teams) are aiming for us. Volleyball is a game of momentum and spirit and, if the other team is fired up and you're flat, it's a challenge. ...
"We've gotten to the point now that maybe we're good enough to win ugly, which is good, but we're going to come up against some opponents where that's not going to get it done."
Girls lacrosse team off to strong start
While girls lacrosse coach Joe Finotti couldn't have scripted a much better start to the season, he has been surprised by the depth of his team's offense.
Ten players scored during the Stallions' 6-1 start, with the first five games being decided by five goals or more.
"I don't think I anticipated as many girls scoring, but I like that better than what I anticipated," Finotti said. "Overall, we're playing pretty solid. (There is) good teamwork (and) good communication throughout the whole team. We're excited for what's to come."
The Stallions' perfect start ended with a 13-12 overtime loss to Columbus School for Girls April 18. They bounced back to defeat Hartley 7-6 on April 19.
Through seven games, senior attackers Mallory Janszen and Katie Moody each had recorded a four-goal game to lead the offense. Janszen had hers in a season-opening 12-7 win over Dublin Scioto on April 6 and Moody scored four in a 13-5 victory over Fenwick on April 13 in the Hannigan-Galipault Tournament at Thomas Worthington.
Other scorers in front of senior goalkeeper Meredith Lloyd included senior attackers Sarah Hughes and Paige Plesich, junior midfielder Ali Cargin, junior attackers Toni Halter and Liza Hornyak and sophomore attackers Bri Ellis, Marie Finotti and Cayman Nebraska.
Coach Finotti lauded the play of Lloyd and the defense, which had allowed more than six goals only twice through seven games.
"Our defense is strong," he said. "They're helping from side to side and doubling the ball, just being aggressive and playing as a unit."
Sprinters lead girls team in Dublin Classic
The boys and girls track and field teams competed in the Dublin Classic on April 20 at Dublin Coffman.
The girls team was paced by third-place finishes by the 800-meter relay (1 minute, 48.67 seconds) and 400 relay (52.43) and junior Ashli Pope's fifth-place finishes in the 100 (13.16) and 200 (27.48).
Junior Erin Kuisti placed sixth in the 300 hurdles (51.54) and sophomore Katya Barrett finished seventh in the long jump (14 feet, 7 inches), as the Stallions scored 26 points to finish ninth behind champion Brunswick (104.5) as 14 teams scored.
The boys team was led by sophomore Adam Acquista, who placed fifth in the 800 (2:07.12), and the fifth-place finishes by the 3,200 (8:40.16) and 400 (45.15) relays.
The Stallions finished 11th (22) behind champion Hilliard Davidson (133.5) as 13 teams scored.
DeSales will compete in the Freedom Relays on Friday, April 26, at Olentangy Liberty, along with Dublin Jerome, Davidson, Olentangy, Olentangy Orange, Westerville Central and the host Patriots.