The DeSales High School boys soccer team hardly could have been in a better position entering a Sept. 20 game at St. Charles, a matchup whose winner has captured the CCL championship three of the past four years.

The DeSales High School boys soccer team hardly could have been in a better position entering a Sept. 20 game at St. Charles, a matchup whose winner has captured the CCL championship three of the past four years.

The Stallions were 6-0-1 overall and 1-0 in the league before playing the Cardinals, but that wasn't enough to satisfy the team or coach Domenic Romanelli. A 3-0 win at Hilliard Bradley on Sept. 10 had featured what Romanelli termed "bickering," prompting him to call a team meeting two days later.

"We were 5-0-1 (at the time), but it was a 5-0-1 I didn't like," Romanelli said. "I sat them down and asked what was going on. We have to work hard. I don't want to hear (any squabbles). We just needed to relax ... and then we played a full scrimmage for 15 minutes and it was unbelievable. We beat the j.v. 5-0 in about 15 minutes.

"The key is having a team that is patient and does not get flustered."

DeSales looked the part in a 5-0 win over visiting Watterson on Sept. 13. The Stallions broke open a 1-0 game with four second-half goals, including two on penalty kicks from Zach Garrett and Hector Gomez, to uphold their early-season status as the top-ranked Division II team in the state.

DeSales, the two-time defending state champion, topped each of the first two Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association polls.

"We've dominated in possession in every game, really. It's just been a matter of putting the ball at the back of the net," forward Mike Cockerell said. "Our practices are very technical. We do a lot of possession work, and I feel we are probably one of the best technical teams in the state. It just comes to us, really. We show what we've learned from that technical work in games."

Hector Gomez had scored 10 of DeSales' 23 goals through seven games. Garrett had three, and Carson Fox and Jonathan Giebler each had two.

Ten Stallions had scored in all, perhaps underscoring Romanelli's use of different players in different formations. DeSales has used four forwards in most games, and between two and four midfielders and two or three defenders, depending on the opponent.

"We went to the outside. That's a lot of what we do," Garrett said. "We've been moving around a lot. We started the season in more of a three-back, and we have moved around and experimented with different stuff. We are not sure what we will do for the rest of the season, but we like it.

"It's always fun trying new things. We feel like we can't go wrong with it. No matter what we do, we will give it our all. We play really well together."

Romanelli has used Giebler in the center of the midfield and on the outside.

Occasionally, freshman Jack Francisco will come off the bench. Romanelli said he has considered starting Francisco, but likes the mid-game contributions he brings.

"I feel like we have 12 starters," Romanelli said. "That means I have to make some tough decisions, but we're also lucky to have that problem."

The shutout of Watterson was DeSales' fourth in a row dating to a 6-0 win at Youngstown Mooney on Sept. 3. The defense has helped limit goalkeeper Chase Agin's workload, as the most saves he had made in any game before Sept. 20 was four, which he had against Watterson as well as in a 4-1 win over Columbus Academy on Aug. 23.

"We have very high standards," Garrett said. "We want to end every game winning 5-0, no matter who it's against."

Volleyball team hitting stride

The girls volleyball team began perhaps the most arduous stretch of its regular season Sept. 19 when it played host to Hartley in a CCL match.

DeSales, which was 8-2 overall and 2-0 in the league before playing the Hawks, also visited Watterson on Sept. 21 and will play host to Ready on Thursday, Sept. 22. That is followed up by a visit to Olentangy on Monday, Sept. 26, and a home match against Olentangy Orange on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

Olentangy was a Division I district runner-up last year. Orange was a district semifinalist and remained atop the OCC-Buckeye Division with a 25-17, 25-17, 22-25, 25-21 victory over Olentangy on Sept. 15.

"We are getting much better with our offensive consistency, and our defensive players are playing very well," DeSales coach Andy Feltz said. "We had the pain of losing a few matches early that serves as motivation. That rattled us a little bit. Right now, it's a matter of us executing and continuing to grow."

The Stallions won the championship of the Casstown Clash on Sept. 17 at Casstown Miami East, defeating Beavercreek (25-17, 25-17) and Miami East (25-20, 19-25, 25-23) before edging Lexington (Kentucky) Henry Clay 21-25, 25-20, 25-22 in the final.

Feltz said setters Diana Brown and Amy Feltz, middle hitter Tiara Teague and libero Jalyn Willard have played well in recent matches. Outside hitter Ally DeLozier recently tweaked an ankle but still leads the team in kills.

"Tiara has been on fire, like hitting .700 on fire," Feltz said. "She's had matches with seven kills in nine attempts. She's been very efficient offensively. We've had better ball control as a team, which gets the ball to her more to finish things off. We've used her in some different locations."

DeBrosse, Steiger leading runners

Running against Division I competition, the girls and boys cross country teams finished sixth and seventh, respectively, in the large-school race of the Central Ohio Invitational on Sept. 17 at Three Creeks Metro Park.

Abi DeBrosse finished 15th (21 minutes, 31.21 seconds) to lead the girls, who scored 168 points in the 10-team field as Gahanna (23) won. Also scoring were Emily Ziegler (27th, 22:35.26), Morgan Rowan (36th, 23:21.78), Chloe Myers (44th, 24:39.44) and Hannah Wilkes (46th, 25:01.45).

Led by Isaac Steiger's 12th-place finish (17:43.47), the boys scored 176 points in the nine-team field as Pickerington Central (23) won. Steiger was followed by John Shoemaker (33rd, 18:48.09), Ben Towler (41st, 19:20.02), Art Williams (44th, 19:31.05) and Jake Smith (46th, 19:45.89).

While both teams ran in the Division I race Sept. 17, only the girls will compete in that classification in the postseason. The boys team returned to Division II this season after competing in Division I last year.

Steiger has led the boys team in three out of four races so far this season. Towler was DeSales' top runner in the other race, finishing 28th in the Westerville Classic on Sept. 3 at Westerville North.

The Central Ohio Invitational marked the first time this season that DeBrosse paced the girls team. Cammy Bury has led the Stallions twice and Ziegler once.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave