In the 11 months since his team reached the Division II state tournament for the first time, DeSales High School boys volleyball coach Andy Feltz hasn't been shy about expressing his expectations for this season.
"I think we have the horses to get back (to state)," said Feltz, whose team was 2-2 before playing Watterson in its CCL opener April 1.
"We just need to make them run. If we play up to the talent I think we have, we can make it back. That's been our goal for a year now."
Evan Feltz, a 6-foot-3 junior outside hitter, leads a group of five returning starters from a team that went 21-4 overall and 4-0 in the CCL and lost to eventual state champion Middletown Fenwick 25-22, 25-10, 25-20 in a state semifinal. DeSales was ranked second in the final state poll last season.
Feltz, the coach's son, was named first-team all-state and East Region Player of the Year a year ago.
Other returning starters are seniors Jordy Brooks (libero), Keegan Crawford (setter) and Hunter Walsh (outside hitter) and junior Luke Melsop (middle hitter). Walsh was a middle hitter last year and Brooks played right-back defender.
Crawford was first-team all-region and honorable mention all-state last year.
In addition to Feltz, the Stallions have size with Melsop, who is 6-5, and 6-4 sophomore right-side hitter Josh Moyler.
"We expect to get some big blocks and big plays out of those guys," said coach Feltz, who is in his sixth season leading the program.
"Evan has had a lot of experience since last year in travel ball, and he worked really hard in the weight room. He had decent skills last year, but physically he was not as developed as he is now."
The rest of the roster consists of senior Josh Van Cuyk (middle hitter), juniors Zach Grennan (defender), Chris Modie (outside hitter) and Parker Plesich (defensive specialist) and sophomores Trent Hopson (right-side hitter) and Jacob Larsen (defensive specialist).
DeSales opened by splitting a tri-match March 22 at Hilliard Davidson, defeating the host Wildcats 25-19, 25-22, 25-20 and losing to Cincinnati Elder 25-16, 25-16, 25-11. The Stallions then defeated Olentangy 25-20, 25-19, 25-14 on March 26 before losing a marathon match to defending Division I state champion Hilliard Darby on March 27, 25-14, 25-18, 22-25, 18-25, 15-12.
Expectations high for softball team
The softball team has returned 10 players from last season, when it finished 14-12 overall and 2-4 in the CCL and lost to Licking Valley 4-2 in a Division II district final.
According to ninth-year coach Julie Barber, this year marks the most returnees DeSales has had since 2011, when it reached a state semifinal.
Sophomore shortstop Leah Roten hit a team-high four home runs last year and is expected to help pace the offense, along with senior first baseman Chloe Biskner (3 home runs) and junior outfielder Taylor Freeman, who was first-team all-league and all-district last year.
Biskner and Roten were first-team all-league and second-team all-district a year ago.
"There is a ton of excitement as we prepare for this season," Barber said. "The girls had a great preseason. They decided to stay together as a team (last) summer and participated in some very competitive tournaments. I loved that they put the team before their individual interests and worked hard together."
DeSales was scheduled to open March 29 with a doubleheader at Granville, but the games were postponed because of bad weather.
The Stallions, who played Perrysburg on March 31, must replace their starting pitcher from a year ago, 2013 graduate Kate Miltko, but have two hurlers this year in junior Emily Piatt and sophomore Cameron Barber. Their primary catcher is Jessie Hamilton, a junior and three-year starter.
Hamilton will be backed up by junior Maddie DeMuesy, who also plays third base.
"Emily worked hard in the offseason to improve her speed and to develop her movement," coach Barber said. "Cameron throws very hard for her age and is learning the art of moving her pitches to keep hitters off balance."
The rest of the roster consists of seniors Kristine Byrum (2B), Catie Woods (OF) and Lizzie Zehala (OF), juniors Ali Baird (OF), Elisa Curl (OF), Katie Hamilton (1B) and Sam Vincent (OF) and sophomore Taylor Bishop (2B).
The Stallions begin CCL play April 14 at home against defending league champion Watterson.
Eight starters back for baseball team
Having returned letterwinners, including eight starters and two of its top three pitchers from last year, the baseball team is looking to build on last year, when it finished 14-17 overall and 4-4 in the CCL and was a Division II district runner-up.
DeSales was scheduled to open March 29 at Lakewood, but the game was postponed because of bad weather. The Stallions played March 31 at Teays Valley.
Seventh-year coach Tom Neubert expects seniors Bryan Stopar and Connor Golden to be his top pitchers. Last year, Stopar was named first-team all-district and Golden was honorable mention all-district.
DeSales lost three players from last season to graduation, but the only starter among the trio was pitcher Alex Perrine, who was first-team all-district last year.
"Ultimately, our focus will be on pitching and defense," Neubert said. "We have a lot of innings pitched from last year coming back. If our guys can throw a lot of strikes, I think we'll be fine. Early on, that's probably what it's going to be about."
The other returning starters are seniors Nic Danner (1B/DH), Sean Hoban (SS/P), Aaron Lienzle (OF), Keagan Lipak (C) and Justin Thompson (OF) and junior Justin Borghese (2B). When not on the mound, Golden starts at third base and Stopar starts at first base.
The rest of the roster consists of senior Jacob Yale (INF), juniors Reed Norris (3B/P), Jared Pressley (OF), Mitch Saunders (P/OF) and D.J. Strapp (P/1B) and sophomores Brendan Alas (INF), Zach Bowden (P) and Nick Smith (C).
Norris is a transfer from Heath, where he played last year.
The Stallions begin CCL play Wednesday, April 9, at St. Charles.
"Expectations are always going to be high here," Neubert said. "We finished (last) season on a high note, and sometimes that can carry over to the next season. By that, I mean in terms of confidence. There can be that aura of knowing what you're capable of doing."