The DeSales High School girls volleyball team has improved by seven wins each of the past three years and reached district finals the past two.

The DeSales High School girls volleyball team has improved by seven wins each of the past three years and reached district finals the past two.

Another seven-win increase would take the Stallions to 26 - which ostensibly would put the team in contention for a state title.

"We'd love it if we were right there," third-year coach Kelly Morgan said during a recent practice before chuckling.

All kidding aside, a state tournament berth figures into DeSales' plans for more reasons than the obvious. This is the 30-year anniversary of the program's only state championship, and the players get to see the banner commemorating that achievement almost every day in the school gymnasium.

"Our theme is 'One Team, One Dream,'" senior right-side hitter and captain Alexa Brown said. "It means a lot to all of us that we all have the same dream in mind. All of us can taste our goal. We feel like we're right there."

The Stallions went 19-7 overall and 3-5 in the CCL last year to finish fourth behind Hartley (6-2), Watterson (6-2) and Ready (5-3) and ahead of Columbus School for Girls (0-8). But as was the case in 2009, that league finish ended up meaning little. DeSales reached a Division II district final for the second consecutive year, losing 25-15, 26-24, 25-16 to Big Walnut.

Hartley eliminated DeSales in 2009.

"We have a lot of unfinished business," said senior setter Kelli Linsenmayer, a second-team all-league selection last year.

The Stallions lost two 2011 graduates in first-team all-league outside hitter Kristina Hoying and defensive specialist Leah Clarke. Five seniors are back this year - Brown, middle hitter McKenzie Cook, first-team all-league and all-district outside hitter Tyler Craig, Linsenmayer and defensive specialist Maria Quinlan. Another senior, defensive specialist Kelly Tilson, is a first-year varsity player.

DeSales will run some 5-1 sets, but Morgan said a lot of that depends on whether Linsenmayer is on the floor.

"She's big in determining what offense we'll run," Morgan said. "That responsibility is on her shoulders."

The junior class consists of outside hitter Erika Brown and libero Bella Guanciale, a two-year starter. Erika Brown missed all but five matches last year after being hit by a car.

Two sophomores round out the team - right-side hitter/defensive specialist Kendall Whitt and middle hitter Kenya Cason. The 5-foot-11 Cason has a vertical reach of more than 10 feet.

DeSales opened Aug. 27 with a tri-match in which it defeated Teays Valley 25-7, 25-11 and host Reynoldsburg 25-4, 25-11.

The Stallions played host to Shekinah Christian on Aug. 30. The league opener is Sept. 13 at home against Hartley.

"Physically, we think we can match up with any team put in front of us," Morgan said. "We have to make sure we prepare them for any team we face in the CCL. We think we're in one of the most challenging leagues in central Ohio, and it might be the toughest league in all of Ohio."

•The girls golf team finished one spot better in the second Mid-Ohio Girls Golf League tournament Aug. 27 than in the first 12 days earlier.

But coach Jeff Montenaro saw vast improvement in a fourth-place finish behind Watterson, Watkins Memorial and Pickerington North's B team.

"We're getting more consistent with our shots. With a young team, early in the season, I'm not surprised with that," Montenaro said. "The Kilbourne Invitational (in which DeSales finished second Aug. 15) was the first time we took home a trophy in the program's history. Three days later, we shot poorly in the first MOGGL meet. I hope with more rounds, we'll be more consistent."

DeSales shot 375 in the second MOGGL tournament, 29 shots behind Watterson. Watkins Memorial shot 366 and North shot 369.

Senior Tia Tyler carded an 81 to lead the Stallions. She's been their best finisher in all seven events entering an Aug. 29 match against Watterson, North Union and Marysville.

"This is the best golf of her high school career," Montenaro said. "In terms of being a leader on this team, she knows how much we depend on her score. It's a progression of a lot of things. She's always been a big hitter. Her short game has improved, but she also has strengthened out of the tee box."