A 2-1 win over Watterson in its CCL opener Sept. 7 was a huge boost for the DeSales High School girls soccer team, both on paper in terms of winning the CCL championship and psychologically.
The Stallions hadn't beaten the Eagles since 2011, a year that culminated not only in their previous CCL championship but also in the program's fourth Division II state title.
The Stallions, who finished second in the league to Watterson in each of the past five seasons, remembered they still had a lot of work to do.
So far, so good.
DeSales defeated Hartley 3-0 on Sept. 14 and routed Ready 8-0 on Sept. 21 to improve to 3-0 in the CCL and clinch at least a share of the league title. All that stands between the Stallions and the outright CCL championship is an Oct. 5 game at Columbus School for Girls.
"So far, that (win over Watterson) is the highlight of the season. That gave us so much motivation," midfielder Madison Rennie said. "We've had a packed schedule, and after that win everybody was that much more fired up to go out and play and win. We had to put that win in perspective and let things develop for us. I think we've done that pretty well."
DeSales was 5-5-1 overall before playing Granville on Sept. 25.
The Stallions have had a difficult schedule, with their losses coming to Division I schools in Olentangy (2-0 on Aug. 18), Hilliard Bradley (2-1 on Sept. 5), Olentangy Orange (2-1 on Sept. 9) and Dublin Jerome (4-2 on Sept. 12) as well as four-time defending state champion Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit (5-0 on Aug. 26).
Walsh Jesuit also defeated DeSales in the 2012 Division II state final.
DeSales is playing without midfielder Gabie Soto, whose season ended with a torn left ACL suffered in the loss to Olentangy. Elena McSweeney has taken Soto's place next to Abbey Dop, Rennie and Christin Ripke.
"We definitely had to make adjustments with positions, moving some people around," coach Sarah Gantz said. "Kids have stepped up. Maddie continues to be the workhorse and Abbey Dop has really done a great job helping out and providing some leadership. They're holding down the midfield and letting Maddie have a little bit more freedom."
Rennie had a team-high seven goals through 11 games. Dop had three.
"We're playing much better as a team instead of individually. That's showing during our games," forward Gabby Elliott said. "Even after a loss, we want to get right back out there and get another win. Our bodies are tired, but we are having fun and ultimately (our schedule) helps us."
DeSales' Division I-loaded schedule continues against Pickerington North on Thursday, Sept. 28, and New Albany on Saturday, Sept. 30. The Panthers and Eagles were 8-0 and 6-1-2, respectively, before Sept. 19, and Gantz regards those games as litmus tests with the Division I district tournament draw looming Oct. 8.
North was ranked fifth in last week's state poll.
"It's a process. We just try to keep the big picture in mind and be patient," Gantz said. "Every season has highs and lows. Beating Watterson was a great thing for the girls because it's been a while since that happened. We've had some happy, celebratory moments and some times where we don't get the (right) result at the end and we just have to figure out what is working and what isn't."
Bury, Fowler lead
runners at Pickerington
Cammy Bury of the girls cross country team earned a top-five finish for the fifth time in six races this season, placing third (20 minutes, 18.25 seconds) in the Tiger Invitational on Sept. 23 at Pickerington Central.
DeSales finished sixth (142) of 10 teams, behind champion Central (67).
Also scoring for the Stallions were Abi DeBrosse (22nd, 22:48.6), Hannah Pekarcik (33rd, 23:36.44), Bre Callahan (40th, 24:17.97) and Evie Sarle (60th, 25:56.83).
Bury has two wins this year, in the reserve race of the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 9 at Watkins Memorial (19:58.4) and in the Division I race of Central Ohio Invitational on Sept. 16 at Three Creeks Metro Park (20:08.87).
The boys finished eighth (185) of 12 teams at Central, behind champion Columbus Academy (73).
Scoring for DeSales were Ben Towler (14th, 17:35.09), Isaac Steiger (32nd, 18:20.75), John Shoemaker (34th, 18:24.59), Angelo Ricci (51st, 18:54.4) and Matt Stone (57th, 19:00.42).
Both teams will return to Pickerington on Saturday, Sept. 30, for the Panther Invitational at Pickerington North. DeSales then will take a weekend off before the CCL meet on Oct. 14.
Boys golfers hope
to prolong season
Led by Michael Cummins' round of 84, the boys golf team finished fourth (376) in the CCL postseason tournament Sept. 24 at The Players Club at Foxfire.
Rob Landis shot a 90 for the Stallions, followed by Brett Husslein (96) and Alex Miller (106).
St. Charles shot a 300 to clinch its 10th consecutive league championship, ahead of Watterson (322), Hartley (335) and DeSales. The Stallions finished 0-6 in the league, behind the Cardinals (6-0) and Hartley and Watterson (both 3-3).
DeSales then headed to Oakhaven for a Division II sectional Sept. 26.
At sectional, the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Wednesday, Oct. 4, at Denison Golf Club at Granville.
At district, the top team and top individual not on the qualifying team advance to the state tournament Oct. 13 and 14 at NorthStar.
Before the sectional, Husslein was optimistic about a potential postseason run now that DeSales is back in Division II. The Stallions had competed in Division I the past two seasons.
"We feel comfortable in this division," Husslein said. "By the end of the season when everything comes together, we definitely feel like we can get out of the sectional tournament and get to district. We'll see from there."
Girls golfers prep
for sectional tourney
The girls golf team came up just short of the MOGGL championship Sept. 19 at Village View, shooting a 192 to place second behind Granville (188).
Paige Verfurth shot a 46 in nine holes to lead DeSales, followed by Amanda Pancake (47), Faith Corn (49) and Kennedy Pannell (50).
The Stallions finished 15-2 in the MOGGL, second behind the Blue Aces (12-1).
DeSales will play in a Division I sectional Tuesday, Oct. 3, at Mentel Memorial, where the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 10 at Cooks Creek.
DeSales is aiming for its second district berth in program history and first since 2010.
The Stallions have not been represented at district since 2011, when 2012 graduate Samantha Chapman advanced but fell short of state.
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales cross country, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 30 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North
Sept. 30 -- Canal Winchester Invitational at Westchester
Oct. 3 -- Division I sectional at Mentel Memorial
Sept. 30 -- At Toledo St. Francis
*Oct. 3 -- Home vs. St. Charles
Sept. 28 -- At Pickerington North
Sept. 30 -- Home vs. New Albany
Sept. 28 -- At Hilliard Darby
Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Whitehall
Oct. 3 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
*Sept. 28 -- At Watterson. The Stallions defeated the Eagles 22-25, 25-16, 17-25, 25-14, 15-11 on Sept. 12.