Motivation usually is not hard to find for teams whose postseason runs end in anything less than a state championship, but the DeSales High School boys lacrosse team still feels the sting of what by its standards was an unacceptable finish last year.
The good news for the Stallions is that their roster is loaded with 13 seniors, including three Division I college recruits or commits, who return from a team that went 15-3 but fell to Worthington Kilbourne 12-10 in a Division II, Region 7 semifinal.
It was the first time DeSales had not reached at least a regional final since 2009.
"That shocked me," senior defender and Maryland recruit Jack DeSantis said of the moment coach Matt Triplet shared that information with the team. "That hit me hard. That was the low point for our season, and one of the things the captains and I tried to do this year was address the fact that we have the numbers and the skill to win a state championship. We have everything we need. We just need to have the mentality."
DeSantis leads a group of returnees that also includes seniors Tyler Albers (attacker), Will Mnich (defender) and Connor O'Brien (attacker), junior midfielder Carter Hilleary, sophomore midfielder Mason Rickens and both goalkeepers in senior Alex McClary and junior Connor Thune.
Hilleary is an Ohio State commit, while Rickens has committed to Rutgers.
According to Triplet, Albers, DeSantis, Mnich, O'Brien and senior midfielder Marco Susi are fourth-year starters.
"We definitely have a lot of talent on paper. It's more or less how we put it together in terms of chemistry," said Triplet, who is in his 14th season. "We challenged these guys and said, 'Look, we've been in the regional finals every year since 2010. Last year was the first time that hadn't happened.' We took a step backward. We need to keep moving forward. That's the mantra for this year."
DeSales was 2-1 before playing Dublin Coffman on March 27. The Stallions defeated Toledo St. Francis 6-3 on March 24 and beat Westerville North 14-2 on March 23 after opening March 17 with a 15-4 loss to Cincinnati St. Xavier in the Ohio Machine High School Showcase at Fortress Obetz.
Against St. Xavier, Clayton had two goals and Hilleary and Rickens each scored one.
Mnich is confident that the St. Xavier game was not indicative of the defense's abilities.
"We go against a top-tier offense every day and we've been doing really well against them," Mnich said. "Communication is better. That's one of the biggest things and it's gotten better. We were young last year, but we had guys stepped up. They're starting to learn and communicate better with the other guys."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Anthony Cua (long-stick midfielder), Brandon Derrow (defender), Zach Dowling-Fitzpatrick (midfielder), Louis Dytko (midfielder), Rob Landis (midfielder), Matt Mitchell (midfielder) and Andrew Richards (midfielder), juniors Gio Cherichello (midfielder), Tommy Clayton (midfielder), Max Irion (defender) and Grant Rodgers (attacker), sophomores Jack Ayers (defender), Joe Blubaugh (attacker), Chris Fleisher (midfielder), Dylan Fuller (long-stick midfielder), Noah Swenson (defender) and Luke Weithman (midfielder) and freshmen Kahleb Lang (midfielder), Andrew Mahle (midfielder), Kole Perrine (attacker) and Nick Trostel (long-stick midfielder).
Ayers and Blubaugh are transfers from St. Charles and Big Walnut, respectively, while Swenson is a transfer from Gahanna.
However this year's regional tournament unfolds for DeSales, the Stallions know Kilbourne will not have the chance to end their season for the third consecutive year, as the Wolves are now in Division I. Kilbourne beat DeSales in the Division II Central Region final in 2016.
"This season, (the state tournament) is almost screaming our name," DeSantis said. "Kilbourne left, Watterson lost a lot of players. A lot of other teams lost some seniors and we're as strong as ever."
Girls lacrosse team maintains lofty goals
Seventh-year girls lacrosse coach Joe Finotti stopped short of calling a regional championship an expectation, even though the Stallions won their first Division II state title in 2016 and lost to Chagrin Falls 9-8 in double overtime in a state semifinal last year.
"We have some unfinished business. The girls have a mindset of getting back to that level," Finotti said. "In 2016, we didn't talk about (state). In 2017, we didn't talk about it, although we felt the pressure. I don't talk about the state tournament. We talk about winning league championships first and then getting back to the regional final. Anything beyond that, we'll talk about later on in the season."
DeSales, whose game against Cincinnati Summit Country Day on March 24 was canceled, was 2-1 overall before playing Coffman on March 27.
Junior attacker Sophia Finotti had 53 goals and senior attacker/midfielder Abbey Dop scored 48 last year as the Stallions went 18-2 overall, 7-0 in the Central Independent League and 3-0 in the CCL. DeSales began pursuit of its fourth consecutive CCL championship and its third CIL title in a row when it played host to Watterson on March 27.
Dop said she isn't putting pressure on herself to replace the production from 2017 graduate Jennie Finotti, who had 43 goals and 21 assists a year ago and finished her prep career with a program-record 248 goals.
"I don't think I need to necessarily take over Jennie's role, but I think I just need to play my game better than I did last year," Dop said. "The way our offense is now, we distribute the ball a lot to a few scorers. I think we will play a different game than we did last year."
Junior attacker Grace Lensmire led the Stallions in goals (63) and assists (24) a year ago.
Other returnees include senior Payton Nebraska (attacker), juniors Greta Cargin (defender), Annie Hazleton (goalie) and Leah Richards (defender/midfielder) and sophomore Liz Renken (midfielder). Hazelton will split time in goal with freshman Carmela Cua.
Sophia Finotti had 12 goals through three games, seven of which came in a 21-12 win over Worthington Kilbourne in the Stallions' home opener March 20. Dop and Renken each added four goals against the Wolves.
DeSales opened with a 6-3 loss at New Albany on March 17 and beat Mason 12-6 on March 23.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Ayana Boston (defender), Emma Burns (defender), Annie King (attacker) and Sydney Rikk (defender), juniors Izzy Arbona (defender), Julia Bosco (attacker), Domenica Cua (midfielder) and Hannah Magold (attacker), sophomores Lily Jones (midfielder) and Audry McPhaden (defender/goalie) and freshmen Gabby Mahaffey (midfielder) and Izzy Sauer (attacker/midfielder).
"We just have to focus on the little things in games," Nebraska said. "If we do that well, we'll be good at big things later on. Anything to improve and be where we need to be later on."
March 17 -- Cincinnati St. Xavier in Ohio Machine High School Showcase at Fortress Obetz
March 23 -- vs. Westerville North
March 24 -- vs. Toledo St. Francis
March 27 -- at Dublin Coffman
April 6 -- at Fort Mill (S.C.) Nation Ford
April 7 -- Cumberland (S.C.) Fort Mill at Nation Ford
April 17 -- at Granville
April 20 -- vs. Upper St. Clair (Pa.)
April 21 -- at Columbus Academy
April 26 -- at St. Charles
April 27 -- vs. Bexley
April 28 -- at Seven Hills
May 2 -- at Hilliard Davidson
May 4 -- vs. Watterson
May 8 -- at New Albany
May 10 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
March 17 -- at New Albany
March 20 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
March 23 -- at Mason
March 24 -- at Cincinnati Summit Country Day
*March 27 -- vs. Watterson
*April 10 -- at Columbus School for Girls
April 13 -- vs. Cincinnati Mariemont
*April 17 -- vs. Hartley
*April 19 -- at Wellington
April 20 -- vs. Cincinnati Sycamore
*April 25 -- at Columbus Academy
April 27 -- at Chagrin Falls
April 28 -- Cleveland Heights and Massillon Jackson in Cleveland Heights Invitational
*May 3 -- vs. Bexley
May 5 -- at Cincinnati Indian Hill
May 8 -- vs. Olentangy
*May 10 -- at Granville
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales baseball, softball and track & field teams:
April 2 -- Morris County (N.J.) Morris Knolls at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
April 3 -- Brandensburg (Ky.) Meade County and Shepherdsville (Ky.) North Bullitt at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach
April 2 -- Louisville (Ky.) Valley at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach
April 3 -- Scottsville (Ky.) Allen County at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach
TRACK & FIELD
April 4 -- At Olentangy Orange with Franklin Heights