The DeSales High School boys lacrosse team held statistical advantages in nearly every category except the one that mattered most after one quarter of the Division II state final June 2 at Ohio Wesleyan.
Despite outshooting Toledo Ottawa Hills 11-5 and winning five of six faceoffs, the Stallions trailed 3-2.
Coach Matt Triplet knew his team was capable of much better, and let them know in no uncertain terms.
"We had not been playing within ourselves. We were making a lot of dumb mistakes," Triplet said. "Guys were trying to play outside themselves and forcing things, but the defense held like they were supposed to do and the offense held. We started hitting the cage and spreading the defense out so we got more assists and goals."
From then on, DeSales looked much more like the team that had averaged 17.4 goals in its first five playoff games, scoring the first six goals of the second period to take control in a 13-5 victory that gave the Stallions their second state championship.
"(Triplet) said, 'Guys, we've got to reset,' and we said, 'Yes, sir,'" said midfielder Mason Rickens, who led the Stallions with three goals and three assists. "We had to push the ball on transition when we had it and settle down. We had been really antsy for a while, but we calmed down and that's when we were able to get into our sets on offense."
Carter Hilleary added three goals and two assists and Tommy Clayton also scored three goals as DeSales finished 19-3. The Stallions' only other state final appearance came in 2012, when they defeated Rocky River 8-6.
Coincidentally, June 2 was six years to the day that the Stallions won their first state title, and like that year, the final followed the school's graduation ceremony.
Hilleary tied the game at 3 a little more than a minute into the second quarter, Rickens gave DeSales a 4-3 lead 26 seconds after that and the Stallions' defense kept the Green Bears scoreless for an 11-minute, 50-second span to take an 8-4 lead into halftime.
Peter Boice had two goals to lead Ottawa Hills, which finished 21-2 and was making its first state final appearance. The Green Bears began play as a club team in 2008.
"We just couldn't get a lot of shots to drop," Boice said. "We had a lot of open looks and we just couldn't finish, which happens sometimes. They had a great defense. They played a heck of a game overall - offense, defense, goalie, faceoff unit. Props to them. They're a great team and great program."
Stallions goalkeeper Connor Thune made 10 saves. Many of the shots he saw in the second half went wide of the goal thanks to considerable defensive pressure.
"My method is 'don't think, just play,'" Thune said. "They were a much tougher team than we thought they were. They came out and pushed us early and we had to shove harder."
DeSales advanced to the final with a 15-13 win over Cincinnati Mariemont in a semifinal May 29 at Dayton Chaminade Julienne. Clayton had seven goals and Hilleary scored three, including the game-winner with 1:26 left.
"I was going to do whatever in my power and in my team's power we had to do to get this win," said Clayton, who finished the season with a team-high 67 goals. "Our seniors deserved it."
Boys track team finishes 15th at state
Art Williams of the boys track and field team shrugged off any suggestion that he was the Stallions' workhorse during the Division II state meet June 1 and 2 at Ohio State, although he was largely responsible for the Stallions' 15th-place finish.
The senior and Wheeling Jesuit recruit placed fourth in the 400 meters (49.41), was on the fourth-place 1,600 relay (3:22.09) with Ian McCandlish, Zion Parker and Caden Zellner and helped the 800 relay place sixth (1:29.89) with Angelo Ricci, A.J. Sallee and Isaiah Thomas.
The 800 relay ran a program-record 1:29.55 during preliminaries.
"It's been crazy," Williams said. "I just want to do (all this) for my guys. I want to be a part of that and win with them and help them excel to the best they can. I don't want to hold them back. I want to be there with them every step of the way."
Ricci also competed in the long jump, placing eighth in 20 feet, 10 3/4 inches. The junior was 16th in the same event last year, when the Stallions competed in Division I.
"I wrote everybody's seed (distances) down, what they got in regional, and compared myself to them to see what I could do to make it into the finals and further up on the podium (for finishing in the top eight)," said Ricci, who leapt between 20-5 1/2 and 20-10 3/4 on each of his six attempts. "I didn't even warm up last year. I was a lot calmer this time around."
The Stallions scored 14 points at state to finish behind champion Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (51) as 71 teams scored.
This was DeSales' best representation at state since 2015, when the boys team advanced seven individuals and three relays in Division II. The Stallions competed in Division I each of the past two seasons.
DeSales was coming off a sixth-place finish in the regional meet May 24 and 26 at Lexington. The Stallions scored 37 points to finish behind champion Sandusky Perkins (70) as 45 teams scored.
Also competing at regional but failing to advance were Sallee in the 110 hurdles (fifth, 15.24) and 200 (13th, 23.25), the 3,200 relay of McCandlish, Parker, Ben Towler and Zellner (sixth, 8:07.4), Towler in the 1,600 (ninth, 4:37.72), McCandlish in the 800 (10th, 2:00.45), Parker in the 800 (10th, 2:00.77), Thomas in the 200 (12th, 23.2) and 100 (13th, 11.49) and Noah Thompson in the 300 hurdles (16th, 45.73).
Girls lacrosse team falls in state semi
After seemingly taking control of its Division II state semifinal May 29 against Marie-mont, the girls lacrosse team met an all too familiar fate.
DeSales scored six unanswered goals in the second half to take a 13-10 lead, but Warriors freshman Marah Campbell capped a late comeback by scoring the game-tying goal with 2:58 left in regulation and the winning goal with 7.2 seconds remaining in overtime to give Mariemont a 15-14 win at Chaminade Julienne.
It was the Stallions' second overtime loss in a state semifinal in as many years. DeSales, which finished 18-4 overall, fell to Chagrin Falls 9-8 in overtime last season, a year after beating the Tigers in the state final to win the program's first championship.
"It really stinks to lose in overtime again," coach Joe Finotti said. "We lost some of our positioning on defense and we got beat in some (one-on-ones). I'm proud of the girls. We fought. I'm disappointed. We could have won."
Junior midfielder Sophia Finotti had seven goals against Mariemont and junior attacker Grace Lensmire added four. Junior goalie Annie Hazelton made five saves and freshman Carmela Cua made three.
Finotti scored a team-high 78 goals, ahead of Lensmire (60) and senior midfielder Abbey Dop (59). Lensmire led the Stallions in assists (49) and points (103).
Hazelton stopped 57 of 163 shots (35 percent) and Cua had 35 saves on 83 shots (42.2 percent).
The Stallions went 3-0 in the CCL to win their fourth consecutive league championship, ahead of Hartley (2-1), Columbus School for Girls (1-2) and Watterson (0-3), and 7-0 in the Central Independent League to win that title for the third year in a row, ahead of Columbus Academy (6-1), Granville (5-2), Hartley (4-3), CSG (3-4), Watterson (2-5), Bexley (1-6) and Wellington (0-7).
Seeded first in the 16-team Region 7 tournament, DeSales defeated 16th-seeded Centennial 21-0 in the first round May 16, ninth-seeded Chaminade Julienne 20-1 in a quarterfinal May 19, fourth-seeded Granville 13-7 in a semifinal May 22 and second-seeded Academy 16-7 in the regional final May 25.
Dop, Finotti, Lensmire, senior attacker Payton Nebraska and junior defender/midfielder Leah Richards were named first-team all-CCL and all-CIL. Senior defender Emma Burns and junior defender Greta Cargin made second team in both leagues, and senior defender Sydney Rikk was honorable mention all-CIL.
Dop, Finotti and Lensmire earned first-team all-region honors. Nebraska and Richards were second-team all-region and Cargin was named honorable mention all-region.
Dop also earned first-team all-state honors while Finotti was second-team all-state.
The regional final win was Finotti's 100th victory as DeSales coach. He has a 100-30-2 record in seven seasons with the Stallions.