Pushed into front-line service as a sophomore, Shayna Sarisky has learned to do it all the past two years for the DeSales High School girls volleyball team.

Because she stands 5-foot-9, the senior has had to find ways to make up for a lack of height compared to many front-row players.

"I can hit different spots, mix it up and not just pound the ball all the time. I try to get the other team out of system," Sarisky said. "I'm only 5-9 and hitting against big hitters is not always going to work. I've learned to try to hit around them and hit different spaces."

Sarisky's craftiness has catapulted her into the team lead in kills with 178, and she also ranks third in digs with 192 as the Stallions seek their seventh consecutive district championship and 15th overall.

Seeded third in the 50-team Division I district tournament, DeSales took a first-round bye and will play host to 35th-seeded Whetstone or 38th-seeded Centennial in a second-round match Thursday, Oct. 19. The Stallions are 16-3.

Sarisky began her sophomore season as a bench player but earned more time after outside hitter Olivia Nortz suffered a torn ACL. Sarisky has been a full-time starter since the beginning of last season.

"It was nerve-wracking at first because I was playing with great players who were seniors," Sarisky said, mentioning 2016 graduates Julia Brown, Dani Guanciale and Doni Guanciale. "They were great leaders and I learned a lot from them. They helped me immensely. I felt like I could play with them even though I was younger."

Coach Brenden Pence said Sarisky has been even more valuable to the team now that she sees time at every spot in the rotation. Calling Sarisky "gritty," Pence cited her prowess in back-row defense and serve receive.

"She's been really tenacious," Pence said. "Being an outside hitter, you not only have to deal with the good balls but also some of the bad plays, and she has done a good job of expanding her range. She hits corners well and brings power when she has to. She uses her tip game well. She has a lot of fight and doesn't back down from much.

"Shayna definitely impacts the game multiple ways. From the beginning, we pegged her as one of the leaders on the court and leaders by example."

Emma Brown has 167 kills and Tiara Teague, who, like Sarisky, stands 5-9, has 114.

Teague has battled left foot injuries most of the season, beginning with a stress fracture before the year and now tendonitis. She said she hopes to return to action by the regional tournament, if not before.

"I want to get better for (my teammates)," Teague said, referring both to her health and skill set. "Being a 5-9 middle hitter, you don't see that very often, but I thank my training and all the coaches I have had. I've done a lot of training and weightlifting, too, to get my legs stronger and jump higher."

DeSales has not played since Oct. 9, when it lost to Olentangy Orange 13-25, 8-25, 25-12, 25-18, 15-12 to end the regular season.

"Especially after the Orange match, which was tough, it's been good to have a little break and get back to the basics," Pence said. "We had a few scrimmages set up to stay in game shape and stay sharp."

The second-round winner will play 17th-seeded Upper Arlington, 22nd-seeded Hilliard Bradley or 23rd-seeded Westerville Central in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 25, at Franklin Heights. The district final is Oct. 28.

DeSales has not been to the state tournament since 2013.

"We think we have what it takes to get to there," Sarisky said. "We have a lot of big hitters and everybody brings a lot to the court."

Girls runners win CCL championship

Cammy Bury of the girls cross country team eyed her competition during the CCL meet Oct. 14 at Otterbein University, then pounced.

Bury won her first league championship in 20 minutes, 32.33 seconds and led the Stallions to their first team title since 2009. DeSales scored 37 points to finish ahead of Hartley (45), Watterson (52), Columbus School for Girls (90) and Ready (144).

"I know not to give it my all in the first 400 meters. I just sit back a little bit and then watch and see how everyone else will do," Bury said. "They started to fall back and after a mile or so in, I felt pretty good. Then I went with all I have."

Also scoring for the Stallions were Bre Callahan (fifth, 22:02.09), Hannah Pekarcik (sixth, 22:03.71), Abi DeBrosse (eighth, 22:13.91) and Evie Sarle (17th, 24:01.04).

DeSales also won league championships in 1997 and 1998.

The boys finished third (78) in the league meet, behind St. Charles (24) and Watterson (54) and ahead of Hartley (89) and Ready (136).

Ben Towler placed third (17:12.22) to lead the Stallions, followed by Isaac Steiger (11th, 18:00.58), John Shoemaker (18th, 18:22.85), Angelo Ricci (21st, 18:40.15) and Art Williams (25th, 19:15.17).

Both teams will compete in district meets Saturday, Oct. 21, at Watkins Memorial.

The boys will compete in the Division II, district 2 meet, from which the top four teams and top 16 runners advance to regional Oct. 28 at Pickerington North. The girls will run in Division I, district 2, where the top six teams and top 24 runners qualify for regional.

Girls soccer team visits Greyhounds

The girls soccer team takes a sub-.500 record into its Division I district tournament opener Thursday, Oct. 19, at 11th-seeded Grove City.

DeSales is 5-8-3 and is coming off a 4-1 loss to Hilliard Davidson to end the regular season Oct. 12. Julia Anderson scored for the Stallions.

The Stallions, who are seeded 17th of 42 teams, have lost two of their three postseason games since returning to Division I in 2015, but hung tough with Hilliard Darby in a district semifinal last year before falling 2-1.

The DeSales-Grove City winner will play 10th-seeded Canal Winchester, 14th-seeded Davidson or 23rd-seeded Westerville Central in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 24, at a neutral site to be determined. The district final is Oct. 28.

Boys soccer team preps for tourney

The boys soccer team was ranked first in the state in Division II for the second consecutive week last week, and faces what on paper is a favorable bracket in the coming district tournament.

Seeded first of 27 teams, DeSales took a first-round bye and will play host to 18th-seeded Linden-McKinley or 20th-seeded Licking Valley in the second round Saturday, Oct. 21. The winner faces ninth-seeded Marion Pleasant, 23rd-seeded Sparta Highland or 25th-seeded Columbus East in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 25, at a neutral site to be determined.

The district final is Oct. 28.

The Stallions finished an undefeated regular season with a 5-1 win at Cincinnati Indian Hill on Oct. 14 and are 15-0-1. Hector Gomez scored twice to lead DeSales and now has 22 goals on the year.

Gomez was selected Oct. 12 to play in the High School Soccer All-American Game on Dec. 2 in Orlando, Florida. The senior midfielder was one of two area players named to the game, along with Dublin Coffman's Luke Kiley.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave