Asked to give an opening statement in the news conference following his team's 25-16, 25-10, 25-16 loss to Toledo St. Ursula Academy in a Division I state semifinal Nov. 7 at Wright State University, DeSales High School girls volleyball coach Andy Feltz wasted no words.
"They served great, and we passed poorly. We served mediocre and they passed great," he said. "We were out of (our) system a lot. They were in a system a lot. We ran into a buzzsaw today."
St. Ursula jumped out to a 12-2 lead in each of the first two games. DeSales took its first lead of the match at 5-4 in the third game and led 9-7 before the Arrows went on a 14-2 run to end the match and the Stallions' season.
Senior outside hitter Kenya Cason had a match-high 13 kills and sophomore setter Julia Brown added 16 assists and nine digs for DeSales, which finished 26-2 overall. St. Ursula forced the Stallions into making 18 errors and just 21 kills in 106 attempts.
"The quote from Mike Tyson is, 'Everybody's got a plan until they get (punched) in the mouth,'" Feltz said. "Well, we got smacked in the mouth. We had a game plan, (but) we just got smacked. Then we had to rely on our hearts to fight our way back in."
Cason, who has committed to the University of Connecticut and was named second-team all-state and first-team all-CCL, finished the season with 482 kills. According to OHSAA records, that unofficially is the 20th best total for a season in state history.
"Holding (Cason) to 13 kills in 50 attempts, I'll take that," said St. Ursula coach John Buck, whose team lost to Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame 25-27, 25-23, 25-19, 26-24 in the state final Nov. 9. "We handled her and their other threats well throughout the match. We didn't get a lot of blocks on her, but our back row played very well defensively."
The loss to St. Ursula capped a season in which the Stallions repeated as league champions for the first time in 30 years, lost only 10 of 81 games and captured the school's first Division I district championship in any sport.
DeSales cruised to its second consecutive CCL title, the first such feat for the program since 1982 and '83. The Stallions went 8-0 in league play to finish ahead of Hartley (6-2), Ready (3-5), Watterson (3-5) and Columbus School for Girls (0-8).
Ranked fourth in the final state poll, DeSales was the top seed in the district and took a first-round bye. The Stallions cruised through their first three postseason matches, defeating 34th-seeded Pickerington Central 25-8, 25-11, 25-9 in a second-round match Oct. 18, 28th-seeded Central Crossing 25-14, 25-16, 25-6 in a district semifinal Oct. 23 and 11th-seeded Olentangy Liberty 25-17, 25-14, 25-13 in a district final Oct. 26.
In the regional tournament at Hilliard Davidson, DeSales edged Grove City 22-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-20 in a semifinal Oct. 30 and swept Dublin Coffman 25-21, 25-18, 25-21 in the final Nov. 2 to advance to state.
Brown, who finished with 632 assists, and senior outside hitter Kendall Witt, who had 127 kills, were named first-team all-league along with Cason. Sophomore libero Doni Guanciale and junior middle blocker/right-side hitter Emily Durbin were second-team all-league.
"I don't think this is the last time you'll see us here (at state)," Feltz said. "These kids have worked hard to pump up the freshmen, sophomores and juniors about what it takes to be part of this program."
In addition to Brown, Durbin and Guanciale, expected to return are juniors Jamie Durbin (middle blocker), Katie Evans (middle blocker), Natalia Iannarino (defensive specialist) and Abby Julian (defensive specialist/setter) and sophomores Dani Guanciale (defensive specialist) and Olivia Nortz (outside hitter).
"The girls who played on varsity this year did a great job and really matured, especially the underclassmen," Witt said. "It takes a lot to play on a court like (the one at Wright State) in front of that many people. They did a great job staying composed (against St. Ursula) and all year and getting us where we ended up."