Even though DeSales High School boys soccer coach Domenic Romanelli sees talent throughout his team's roster, he continued to tinker with his lineup, both in his mind and on the field, in the days leading up to the opener Aug. 20 at Columbus Academy.
Among the key returnees for the Stallions is Antonio Roma-nelli, a sophomore midfielder and the coach's son who had six goals last season, ranking second on the team behind 2013 graduate Ali Sidibeh (11).
Other key returnees include senior midfielder Peter Marth, senior forward Dante Pezzutti, junior forwards Lucas Agin and Jordan Brooks and junior defenders Mack Beidler, Harrison Hott and Jared Pressley.
"What I am struggling with right now is making sure they're in the right positions," said coach Romanelli, whose team finished 8-7-4, placed second in the CCL and lost to Bexley 2-1 in a Division II district final last season. "If we had an extra guy, we'd be so much better. My son is a heck of a midfielder, but if he was up top, he could finish. A lot of it depends on who we're playing, when and how important the game is. But he's our playmaker, he's our distributor and he and Peter Marth are great in the midfield. They understand each other well. Those two and the strength of Pressley behind them and Brooks and Pezzutti up top will create some issues. They're quick on the ball and smart players, but I'm not going to know a lot of things for sure until we start playing."
Sophomore J.P. Baughman is the starting goalkeeper, and senior midfielder Ian Lawson and junior midfielders Ryan Cannon and Matt Higgins are expected to be key contributors.
DeSales' home opener is Saturday, Aug. 24, against Bay Village Bay and its CCL opener is Sept. 5 at home against Ready.
Other highlights of the schedule include a road game against Division II power Dayton Carroll on Sept. 7, home games against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (Sept. 14) and Youngstown Mooney (Sept. 28) and clashes against Division I opponents Dublin Coffman (Oct. 3), Dublin Jerome (Oct. 10), Hilliard Bradley (Sept. 21) and Hilliard Davidson (Oct. 12).
"Six months ago, I didn't know what to think about that schedule," coach Romanelli said. "But we'll be fine. These guys will step up. They're already showing that they can."
Girls soccer coach tweaking program
Members of the girls soccer team might not have liked the top item on coach Matt D'Auteuil's agenda when he took over the program in April, but they might be reaping benefits already.
D'Auteuil succeeded two-year coach Bob McGee, who guided the Stallions to the Division II state championship in 2011. Last season, DeSales lost to Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit 5-0 in the state final, placed second in the CCL and finished 15-8-1.
"Fitness was my big stickler issue," D'Auteuil said. "I don't know if they took the message correctly in the initial meeting, but they got the message eventually. The parents were telling me they'd never seen the girls run so much during the summer. We played a scrimmage against some of our alumni and they were all over the field. But they came off and told me they weren't even tired. I loved hearing that."
Top returnees include senior defender Grace Alguire, senior midfielder Alexis Neri and senior defender/midfielder Maria Riley, the team's three co-captains.
Among those expected to start are senior forward Lydia Burke, senior defender Annamaria Pagani, junior forwards/midfielders Maggie Carlos and Emily Ripke, sophomore midfielder Gigi Howard, freshman forward Isabella Shivley and versatile senior Erin Kuisti, who can fill any position on the field, according to D'Auteuil.
Junior goalkeepers Katya Barrett and Isabella Connolly both are expected to see considerable playing time, D'Auteuil said.
Also on the roster are senior defender Kathleen Carpenter, senior midfielder Alaina Fliotsis, senior forward/midfielder Xanie Fox, senior forward Liza Hornyak, sophomore defenders/midfielders Logan Agin and Paige Gilliland and sophomore forward/midfielder Haley Hott.
The Stallions opened Aug. 19 at Chillicothe Zane Trace and will play host to Bay Village Bay on Saturday, Aug. 24. Their CCL opener is Sept. 5 at Ready.
Originally slated to compete in Division I this year by the OHSAA, realignment in early August bumped the Stallions back to Division II by one girl. The cutoff for Division II is 353 girls, which is DeSales' female enrollment, according to the OHSAA.
While D'Auteuil wants the program's third consecutive district championship as much as his players, he admitted he wants to temper expectations.
"It's not because I don't think they can do it, but because I think that often when you shoot for one big goal, that hangs over your head all year," he said. "I tell them I want to beat Watterson, I want to win the CCL and then ultimately a district title. From there, we'll take care of things beyond that."