DeSales High School athletics director Tom Neubert needed less than two weeks to find a new boys basketball coach.
Former Fisher Catholic coach Joe Bills accepted the job June 11, leaving the Irish after two seasons to succeed Blair Albright, who resigned May 31 to accept the coaching job at Kettering Fairmont.
Bills, 32, was 20-25 in two seasons at Fisher Catholic. He was a four-year starter at Zanesville Rosecrans from 1995-99 and played at Wright State University from 1999-2003 before serving as an assistant coach at Rosecrans from 2003-06.
In Bills' playing and coaching days, Rosecrans was a member of the CCL, and the lure of returning to that league proved irresistible.
"Things were great (at Fisher Catholic), but this is a chance to come home," Bills said. "There aren't too many places in the state of Ohio with traditions and standards of excellence like DeSales. ...
"I've had a lot of success in the CCL. I know what it takes to walk into a place like Hartley or Watterson and come out with a win. I can't wait to be a part of that league again."
Bills will teach English at DeSales, filling the position Albright vacated.
"Joe is as good as they come where basketball knowledge is concerned," Neubert said. "He's impressive, not just from what he did as a player but as a coach. We think we found a perfect fit."
A 1997 DeSales graduate, Albright compiled a 156-60 overall record with the Stallions, including a 60-22 mark in the CCL. He guided the Stallions to five consecutive CCL titles from 2006-10 and Division II state appearances in 2006, 2007 and 2009.
This past season, DeSales finished 13-12 overall and 1-7 in the CCL and lost to Marion-Franklin 56-34 in a district final.
Track coach deems season a success
With three relays qualifying for the state meet June 7 and 8 at Ohio State, track and field coach Ben McGinnis deemed his first season a success.
"There were two things I really wanted to do, and we did them both," he said. "I wanted a strong schedule, and we competed against a lot of Division I teams. I really, really saw that pay off with the girls because they got used to (Division I) competition.
"And I wanted to see everybody step up and go their hardest because we don't have the biggest team, and I saw that."
In the Division II state meet, the boys 400-meter relay of seniors Breyon Bowman, Tristan Caldwell and LaShaun Sanders and junior Taz Collins placed eighth (43.3 seconds) and the 800 relay of Bowman, Sanders, senior Tyler West and Caldwell finished 11th (1:30.97).
The girls 800 relay of seniors Sierra Mergliano and Leah Selmek and juniors Erin Kuisti and Ashli Pope placed 12th place (1:45.12) at state in Division I.
"They had seen teams like Dublin Jerome, Pickerington North and Pickerington Central," McGinnis said of the girls 800 relay. "That carried through the CCL. When you see a runner like Diamond Gause (of Reynoldsburg, who won the 100 and 200 state titles), you're not going to be nervous about running against Watterson."
The boys team earned one point at state to tie 10 other teams for 63rd behind champion Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (49) as 73 teams scored. The girls team did not score at state as Solon (47) won the team championship and 74 teams scored.
Powered by third-place finishes by the 400 (43.41) and 800 (1:29.84) relays, the boys team scored 12 points in the regional meet May 30 and June 1 at Lexington to finish 20th (12) behind champion Pemberville Eastwood (55) as 44 teams scored.
The top four finishers in each regional event qualified for state.
Also competing at regional were West in the 800 (10th, 1:58.98), Bowman in the 200 (10th, 22.66), junior Ian Lawson in the 3,200 (13th, 10:56.24), sophomore Adam Acquista in the 800 (15th, 2:05.58), the 1,600 relay of Bowman, Caldwell, Sanders and West (ninth, 3:28.97) and the 3,200 relay of Acquista, junior Kyle Bennett, Lawson and West (11th, 8:28.44).
Led by the first-place 800 relay (1:32.07), DeSales finished fifth (68) in the 13-team district 1 meet that concluded May 25 at Westerville South behind champion Independence (97).
The Stallions placed second (81) in the CCL meet May 16 and 18 at Columbus School for Girls, behind St. Charles (175) and ahead of Ready (79), Hartley (77) and Watterson (74).
The 800 (1:30.8) and 1,600 (3:31.9) relays both won league titles.
The girls team scored 13 points in the regional meet May 29 and 31 at Pickerington North to tie Olentangy Liberty for 18th behind co-champions Gahanna (55) and Pickerington Central (55) as 39 teams scored.
The 800 relay placed fourth (1:43.95). Also at regional, the 400 relay of Kuisti, Mergliano, Pope and Selmek placed fifth (49.55), finishing .04 of a second behind fourth-place Dublin Scioto, and Pope placed fifth in the 200 (26.07).
The Stallions scored 33 points to place eighth in the 17-team district 2 meet that concluded May 25 at Hilliard Darby, behind champion Gahanna (141.5).
DeSales won the CCL meet, scoring 114 points to finish ahead of CSG (112), Watterson (105), Hartley (102) and Ready (55). Winning league titles were freshman Emily Collet in the high jump (4 feet, 8 inches), freshman Morgan Barrett in the discus (90-6), Kuisti in the 300 hurdles (48.0), the 400 relay (50.3) and the 800 relay (1:45.5).
Other expected key returnees include freshman distance runner Eliza Cargin and sophomore hurdler and jumper Katya Barrett.
"Next year we're going to have lots of juniors, a handful of sophomores and I expect a lot of freshmen," McGinnis said. "We'll be a young team again, but I think we started building something this year."
Lacrosse team looks to learn from loss
Minutes after a 16-9 loss to Cincinnati Mariemont in a Division II state semifinal June 5, boys lacrosse coach Matt Triplet took some solace in the Stallions coming within two wins of their second consecutive state championship despite having only four seniors.
"We showed ourselves (that) we are capable of being a team that's here to stay," Triplet said. "At the same time, this loss showed us how much hard work it takes to get to the top and stay there."
Senior attacker J.T. Blu-baugh scored four goals, including two in a four-goal, second-quarter burst that brought DeSales to within 7-5 after trailing 4-0 nine minutes into the game. Senior attacker Matt Chadwick added a goal and three assists, sophomore attacker Nick Cannon had two goals and senior midfielder Alex Musci and freshman attacker Nick Musci each scored one goal.
Junior goalkeeper Ben Dumm made 12 saves for the Stallions, who were outshot 28-12 by Mariemont and finished 11-5. Mariemont went on to win the state title, defeating Rocky River 10-6 in the final June 8 at Upper Arlington.
The Stallions played five regular-season games without Blubaugh, an Ohio State signee who was sidelined with a hip injury, and earned the top seed in the Division II Central Region tournament, in which they defeated Akron Hoban 20-3 in the first round May 24, Granville 12-3 in the second round May 29 and New Albany 8-7 in a regional final June 1.
Chadwick finished with 37 goals and a team-high 28 assists to lead the team with 65 points, followed by Cannon (team-high 43 goals, 16 assists), Blubaugh (41 goals, 11 assists), Nick Musci (21 goals, 7 assists) and junior midfielder McLean Fitzmartin (19 goals, 6 assists).
Blubaugh was named first-team all-region, all-state and All-American and was the Division II state Attacker of the Year. Fitzmartin and junior defender Austin Jackson also were first-team all-region, Cannon and Dumm were second-team all-region and Chadwick and sophomore defender Ben Hippler were honorable mention all-region.
Fitzmartin and Jackson were second-team all-state.
"The state semifinals are a wonderful place to be and I am proud of the guys who got us back there," Triplet said. "But the loss left a bitter taste in our mouth. That's going to be a ton of motivation for the guys who are coming back."
Boys tennis coach sees 'a lot of promise'
First-year boys tennis coach Rob Lehner hopes two wins to end the regular season, combined with a handful of close losses and junior Sonny DiMichaelangelo qualifying for the Division II district tournament, signals a better season in 2014.
DiMichaelangelo lost his first-round singles match at district, falling to Watterson's Ryan Bibo 6-2, 6-2, after finishing fourth in the sectional May 16 and 18 at Columbus Academy to secure the final district-qualifying berth.
"Three guys were one win from (qualifying for the) district (tournament)," Lehner said. "We definitely ended the season on a high note. The sectional showed what we could do as a team. We were able to get a lot of guys experienced and go deep in some matches. There's a lot of promise."
DiMichaelangelo was DeSales' only district qualifier. Also at sectional, senior Nick Hancart went 2-1 in singles, the doubles team of junior Mack Beidler and freshman Lee Schockling went 1-1, sophomore Kevin Boyer went 0-1 in singles and the doubles team of sophomore Charlie Mitchell and senior Quinn Verfurth went 0-1.
Boyer usually played second singles behind DiMich-aelangelo.
DeSales finished 3-11 overall and went 2-2 in the CCL to place third, behind St. Charles (4-0) and Watterson (3-1) and ahead of Ready (1-3) and Hartley (0-4).
The Stallions, who lost their first six matches, defeated Hartley 5-0 on April 30 and Ready 5-0 on May 15 in league play. Their only match win came against Worthington Christian, 4-1 on May 14.
"All but two guys (Beidler and DiMichaelangelo) were first-year letterwinners," Lehner said. "Many of them were inexperienced players and they know some offseason work will make them much better. That will set the bar even higher."