The DeSales High School girls volleyball team enters the Division I state tournament having lost only eight of 78 games this season.
The Stallions, who are 27-1, are making their second consecutive state appearance, but coach Andy Feltz planned to remind his players this week that, for the first time all year, they could be regarded as the underdog when they play Toledo St. Ursula in a semifinal at noon Thursday, Nov. 7, at Wright State University.
Ranked first in the final state poll, St. Ursula is 28-0 and is making its fourth consecutive state tournament appearance and 10th overall.
"The state tournament will be a mighty challenge and we'll be the underdog for the first time all year," Feltz said. "Our experience will be give us an edge because the state tournament is different in many ways, not only the big venue you play in (the Nutter Center), but all of the pageantry and pressure and the fact that you're playing early in the day. The majority of our kids have been through it before and know what to expect."
Ranked fourth in the final state poll, DeSales advanced to state by defeating Grove City 22-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-20 in a regional semifinal Oct. 30 and Dublin Coffman 25-21, 25-18, 25-21 in the final Nov. 2 at Hilliard Davidson to clinch the program's first regional championship in Division I.
Last year in Division II, the Stallions lost to Cleveland Heights Beaumont 25-19, 25-14, 17-25, 25-14 in a state semifinal.
"It's a big accomplishment, knowing we're beating the teams right here in town," junior right-side hitter Emily Durbin said. "We're friends with a lot of the girls we play, which makes it kind of tough. but it's a good feeling to be one of the top teams here in Columbus."
Senior outside hitter Kenya Cason had 21 kills and sophomore setter Julia Brown had 42 assists against Coffman.
"We were able to put pressure on them with our serving and Kenya always puts pressure on teams with her hitting," Feltz said. "Dublin Coffman put up a big block, so we had to make adjustments and find holes. I thought (sophomore defensive specialist) Doni Guanciale led us with some great defense and picked up a lot of their tips. (Senior outside hitter) Kendall Witt's serve-receive was excellent, and (junior middle hitter) Katie Evans was fast and held their defense in check by putting up a big block."
St. Ursula defeated Chagrin Falls Kenston, 25-14, 17-25, 20-25, 25-11, 20-18 in a regional semifinal Oct. 30 and Strongsville, 19-25, 25-17, 30-28, 25-15 in a regional final Nov. 2.
Key players for the Arrows include right-side hitter Morgan Finn and middle hitter Lauran Graves. Against Strongs-ville, Finn had 13 kills and Graves had 12.
The state semifinal winner will play Cincinnati Ursuline or Hudson in the final at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at Wright State. Ursuline was second in the final state poll but Hudson wasn't in the top-20 ranking.
DeSales did not play any of the teams that reached state during the regular season.
Cason, a University of Connecticut recruit, said the memory of the loss to Beaumont last year remains fresh.
"We have the athletic talent, offense and defense (to win the state title). We just have to stay focused," she said. "When we went to state last year, it was hard because it was our first time, but we're going to be more used to that environment this year."
Football team falls short of playoffs
The football team was projected to miss the playoffs before it took the field Nov. 2 at Akron Buchtel.
Any hope that the calculations regarding its postseason fate were inaccurate disappeared after DeSales fell behind by 20 points en route to a 26-16 loss to Buchtel to finish 5-4.
It marks the second year in a row in which the Stallions have missed the postseason after making the playoffs the previous 18 consecutive seasons. DeSales finished 11th in Division III, Region 9, with the top eight teams reaching the playoffs.
Buchtel finished 6-4, missing the playoffs in Division III, Region 7.
Quarterback Josh DeLozier threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Adam Acquista, running back Austin Andrews ran for a 19-yard touchdown and Acquista made a 32-yard field goal to account for the Stallions' scoring against the Griffins.
DeLozier finished 9-for-22 passing for 131 yards and was intercepted twice. Andrews finished with 88 yards on 15 carries, Acquista had three catches for 61 yards and Michael Wade made two receptions for 57 yards.
Andrews and DeLozier both had interceptions while playing defense.
The combined record of the four teams that DeSales lost to is 32-8, and three of those opponents made the playoffs. Even though the Stallions beat 2012 Division IV state champion Clarksville Clinton-Massie 21-16 on Sept. 27 and the Falcons finished 9-1, the combined record for the teams that DeSales defeated was just 19-30.
Boys soccer team earns honors
The boys soccer team fell short of its primary goals, but its efforts did not go unnoticed.
Sophomore midfielder Antonio Romanelli led the list of postseason honors, being named Division II district Player of the Year and first-team all-CCL.
Senior forward Dante Pezzutti and junior defender Jared Pressley also were first-team all-league, and Pressley and Pezzutti were first-team and second-team all-district, respectively. Senior defender Mack Beidler and sophomore goalkeeper J.P. Baughman both were second-team all-league.
Freshman forward Brady Krietemeyer had a team-high nine goals, followed by Romanelli and junior forward Jordan Brooks with eight apiece and Pressley and senior forward Anthony Hayes with five each. Pezzutti had four goals and a team-high seven assists.
Ranked eighth in the final state poll, DeSales finished 10-7-2 overall, losing to Watterson 1-0 in overtime in a district final Oct. 26 at Westerville North.
"This (ending to the season) is too bad because our kids played hard," coach Domenic Romanelli said. "We played well and we can walk off the field proud, with our heads up. Watterson's a good team and they can go far in the tournament. We definitely played better than we did in last year's district final (a 2-1 loss to Bexley)."
Seeded second in the district, DeSales had a first-round bye and beat 19th-seeded Caledonia River Valley 11-0 in the second round Oct. 17 and eighth-seeded Heath 8-0 in a semifinal Oct. 22 before falling to Watterson.
The Stallions also lost to Watterson in league play, falling 1-0 on Sept. 24, and went 2-1-1 in the CCL to finish third, behind co-champions St. Charles (3-1) and Watterson (3-1) and ahead of Hartley (1-2-1) and Ready (0-4).
"We had an OK season, but we play a tough schedule to get ready for the second season, which is the tournament," coach Romanelli said. "I'm proud of our team and with how we played at the end of the year."
Runners fought through adversity
The season changed drastically for the boys and girls cross country teams Sept. 15 when Bob Lennon was killed in a hit-and-run crash in Delaware County while was on a bike ride. Lennon, 64, was in his 38th season leading the program.
Starting with the Whetstone Invitational on Sept. 18, the Stallions wore armbands that said "run for Bob" for the remainder of the season.
Assistant coaches Katie Shelton and Emily Rizek shared interim head coaching duties.
"Both teams really rallied around each other," Shelton said. "After coach Lennon passed, the first thing we did was meet as a team and decide to run (at Whetstone). Looking back, I think that's the best thing we could have done. He's on our minds during every practice and every race. We supported them and they supported us."
The only member of the boys or girls team to advance from the Division II district meet Oct. 19 at Watkins Memorial was sophomore Creighton Barrett. He finished 26th (17 minutes, 9.24 seconds) of 133 runners in the regional meet Oct. 26 at Troy.
Dayton Carroll's Paul Bete finished 16th (16:41.57) to secure the final qualifying berth for the state meet held Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway.
At district, the boys team finished seventh (222) behind champion Sparta Highland (52) as 21 teams scored. Barrett placed 14th (16:59.1) of 155 runners, as the top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced to regional.
DeSales placed third (68 points) in the CCL meet Oct. 12 at Westerville Recreation Center, behind St. Charles (17) and Watterson (62) and ahead of Hartley (111) and Ready (116), as Barrett placed fourth (17:54.7).
The Stallions lose three seniors in Parker Beck, Anthony Hayes and Ian Lawson but expect to return Barrett, juniors Ben Hippler and Patrick Palumbo and sophomore Eric Myers from their top seven.
The girls team finished ninth (288) at district behind champion Granville (48) as 20 teams scored and placed fifth (102) in the CCL meet, behind Columbus School for Girls (30), Watterson (53), Ready (73) and Hartley (91).
The Stallions lose two seniors in Kristin Faulkner and Annie Kobermann but expect to return junior Bailey Cadena and sophomores Logan Agin, Katie Cherichello, Andrea Coffey, Claire Draminski and Jenna Melvin.
"Overall, the (boys and girls teams were) fairly young," Shelton said. "We'd love to have Creighton step up as a junior. Confidence is going to help him be a leader."