The DeSales High School boys soccer team overhauled its home uniforms this year, going from white jerseys with purple lettering to mostly gray shirts with some purple on the front and gold letters on the back.
The seven stars representing the number of state championships in program history remain, although if the Stallions needed a reminder that this year's team hasn't won anything yet, they needed only look to a preseason they were eager to leave behind.
"It wasn't a great preseason. I can't put my finger on why," 12th-year coach Domenic Romanelli said. "I don't know if it was a mental thing. We just weren't concentrating, but I decided not to panic. We had some scrimmages that weren't good, but then we had some 6 a.m. scrimmages against our second team and we were flying around. The coaches said, 'Just chill. Let's not get nervous until after game 1.'"
If the opener was any indication, DeSales has picked up right where it left off last year, when it did not allow a goal in seven postseason games and completed a 22-0-1 season by defeating longtime foe Bay Village Bay 4-0 in the Division II state final to win its third championship in four years.
The Stallions shut out visiting Olentangy Orange 5-0 in their season opener Aug. 23 and improved to 2-0 with a 3-0 win at Bay on Aug. 25.
"We struggled (in the preseason) on defense, which we were so good at last year, but we're past that now. Our defense has shown they know what they're doing," said senior midfielder Nick Fuchs, who scored twice on free kicks against Orange. "We have so many guys back there who are able to do the job.
"Being back out here, it feels like home. I've missed it ever since the state championship game last year. Through two-a-days, through the winter, I've just wanted to be back out on the field."
Fuchs had 12 goals last year and is the top returning scorer on a team that also brings back several key contributors from a year ago in seniors Mike Cockerell (midfielder), Josh Conroy (defender), Cristian Gomez (midfielder), Ricci Kreuzer (midfielder) and Riley Paxton (defender) and junior Jack Francisco (forward).
Last year, Gomez scored 11 goals and was named second-team all-state, while Francisco added nine goals and six assists.
Among DeSales' losses to graduation were goalkeeper Chase Agin and midfielder Hector Gomez, the Division II state Player of the Year each of the past two seasons. Both now play at Ohio Wesleyan.
"We are so used to playing with each other," said Cockerell, a fourth-year starter. "I've played with Cristian since I don't even know how young we were. We have a lot of guys helping out. We are all great players."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Alessandro Conte (defender), Cesar Ramirez (forward), Thomas Sauer (goalie), Alex Whalen (defender) and Ben Whalen (defender), juniors Drew Hanley (defender), Giuliano Iacobone (forward), Rhyse Martin (defender), Lexi Riddle (midfielder), Will Shaffer (midfielder) and Dominic Verne (midfielder/defender) and sophomores Vigo Bertolo (midfielder) and Gabe Weikert (goalie).
Conte is an exchange student from Italy.
DeSales begins CCL play Tuesday, Sept. 4, at home against Ready. The Stallions went 4-0 in the league last year to finish a game ahead of runner-up St. Charles (3-1).
Girls volleyball team hoping to reload
The girls volleyball team returns four starters from last year's Division I regional runner-up squad, but second-year coach Brenden Pence acknowledged "a sense of urgency" as the Stallions try to reload without second-team All-American setter Diana Brown and a handful of other key contributors.
Seniors Lexi Hall (outside hitter) and Lainey McGonigle (defensive specialist) and juniors Emma Brown (middle hitter/opposite-side hitter/setter) and Bella D'Amico (setter/opposite-side hitter) are back from last year's team that went 20-4 overall and 8-0 in the CCL, losing to Dublin Coffman 25-13, 25-18, 25-21 in a regional final.
D'Amico recently committed to Georgia Tech, while McGonigle is an Otterbein commit.
DeSales was 1-1 before its CCL opener Aug. 28 against Columbus School for Girls. Last year, the Stallions won their fifth league championship in six seasons, finishing three matches ahead of Hartley and Watterson (both 5-3).
"We have a lot of different hitters who can attack from many different areas and playsets," Pence said. "Bella D'Amico does a really great job of running a fluid offense and disguising her sets. We have a really strong base of defenders who do a nice job of keeping us in system. Our major focus this preseason (was) on our defensive system, specifically on setting up a solid blocking scheme, as well as increasing our pressure from the service line."
Emma Brown had a team-high 212 kills last year and Hall added 127. McGonigle had 252 digs, ahead of D'Amico's 210.
Diana Brown, who is Emma Brown's cousin, had 131 kills and was district co-Player of the Year. She now plays at the University of Illinois.
The Stallions opened with a 26-28, 25-20, 25-14, 25-20 win at Sparta Highland on Aug. 21 and lost their home opener 25-20, 25-19, 28-26 to Olentangy on Aug. 25.
"We definitely have some players stepping up into new roles this year, but no one is trying to 'replicate' last year or any previous player," Pence said, noting that Emma Brown has added opposite-side hitter duties and several underclassmen will see considerable playing time. "We have a good understanding of our own team identity, where we are strong and where we need to improve."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Catherine Maas (utility player), Mary Sabatino (defensive specialist) and Katie Zaremba (opposite-side hitter), juniors Grace Barber (defensive specialist), Maryanne Boyle (middle blocker/opposite-side hitter), Gabriella Cugini (setter) and Kennedy Scott (setter) and sophomores Avery Boyd (middle blocker/opposite-side hitter), Bridgett Javitch (defensive specialist), Emily Schweitzer (middle blocker/opposite-side hitter) and Allison Weiner (opposite-side hitter).
Girls soccer team looks to defend title
The girls soccer team returns eight starters as it tries to defend its first CCL championship since 2011 but still is seeking its first win this season.
Seniors Julia Anderson (forward), Domenica Cua (defen-der), Gabby Elliott (forward), Lindsay Plymale (midfielder) and Madison Rennie (forward), juniors Reese Elliott (defender) and Elena McSweeny (midfielder) and sophomore Gabby Mahaffey (defender) are back from last season, when the Stallions finished 5-9-3 overall but went 3-0-1 in the CCL to edge Watterson (3-1) for the title.
Rennie, who scored a team-high nine goals last year, is a University of Kentucky commit.
"We are a very hard-working team. We are getting tougher and smarter with our play and continuing to work on keeping the ball moving and keeping possession," third-year coach Sarah Gantz said. "We have a wonderful group of seniors who have done an amazing job leading us so far."
The Stallions are 0-4 entering a Thursday, Aug. 30, game at Hilliard Bradley. They opened with a 4-2 home loss to Hilliard Darby on Aug. 17 and lost at Hilliard Davidson by the same score Aug. 21 before falling 3-1 at Dublin Jerome on Aug. 23 and 4-0 to visiting Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit on Aug. 25.
DeSales begins CCL play Sept. 6 at home against Ready.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Katie Kiser (goalie) and Ryan Secrest (forward), juniors Hannah Flora (defen-der), Grace Gummer (midfielder), Morgan Gehrlich (midfielder), Lily Jones (forward), Isabella Marino (midfielder), Nicole Miller (midfielder), Julia Palone (defender) and Christian Ripke (defender) and freshmen Abby Groff (goalie) and Kylie Hast (midfielder).
Aug. 23 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Aug. 25 -- at Bay Village Bay
Aug. 30 -- vs. Grove City
*Sept. 4 -- vs. Ready
Sept. 6 -- at Marysville
Sept. 8 -- vs. Richfield Revere
Sept. 15 -- vs. Covington (Ky.) Catholic
*Sept. 18 -- vs. Watterson
Sept. 20 -- at Hilliard Bradley
*Sept. 25 -- at St. Charles
Sept. 28 -- at Forest Hills (New York)
Sept. 29 -- New York City Martin Luther King Jr. at Randall's Island Park, N.Y.
*Oct. 2 -- at Hartley
Oct. 4 -- at Lexington
Oct. 11 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
Oct. 13 -- vs. Cincinnati Indian Hill
Aug. 17 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
Aug. 21 -- at Hilliard Davidson
Aug. 23 -- at Dublin Jerome
Aug. 25 -- vs. Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit
Aug. 30 -- at Hilliard Bradley
Sept. 1 -- at Thomas Worthington
*Sept. 6 -- vs. Ready
Sept. 11 -- vs. Upper Arlington
Sept. 15 -- at Olentangy
Sept. 18 -- at Watkins Memorial
*Sept. 20 -- vs. Watterson
*Sept. 27 -- at Columbus School for Girls
Sept. 29 -- at Olentangy Orange
*Oct. 4 -- at Hartley
Oct. 8 -- vs. Bexley
Oct. 11 -- at Grove City
Aug. 21 -- at Sparta Highland
Aug. 25 -- vs. Olentangy
*Aug. 28 -- vs. Columbus School for Girls
*Aug. 30 -- at Ready
Sept. 1 -- Best of Ohio at Toledo St. Ursula
*Sept. 6 -- at Hartley
*Sept. 11 -- at Watterson
*Sept. 13 -- at Columbus School for Girls
Sept. 15 -- Casstown Clash at Casstown Miami East
*Sept. 18 -- vs. Ready
*Sept. 25 -- vs. Hartley
*Sept. 27 -- vs. Watterson
Sept. 29 -- Black and Gold Invitational at Perrysburg
Oct. 6 -- at Hilliard Darby with Jonathan Alder and Olentangy Liberty
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales cross country, boys golf, girls golf and girls tennis teams:
Sept. 1 -- Martins Ferry Invitational
Sept. 1 -- Bexley Invitational at Westchester
Sept. 4 -- Westerville Central at Champions
Sept. 5 -- Bexley at Westchester
Sept. 4 -- Hartley and Westerville North at NorthStar
*Sept. 4 -- Hartley at Park of Roses
Sept. 5 -- Big Walnut at Otterbein