DeSales High School boys volleyball coach Andy Feltz considers it a sign of progress that even when his team wasn't at its best, it still managed to earn a share of its fourth consecutive CCL championship.
"They are learning how to play on the same court together," Feltz said after the Stallions came from behind to edge visiting St. Charles 25-17, 22-25, 17-25, 25-19, 15-11 on April 25. "I wish it had happened sooner, but we still have time to put everything together."Video •The DeSales boys volleyball team clinches a share of the CCL championship April 25 against St. Charles.
DeSales was 6-3 overall before playing Mount Vernon on May 2 and finished 3-1 in the CCL, sharing the league title with St. Charles.
Two of the Stallions' three losses entering this week were to East Region runners-up from a year ago in Division II St. Charles (14-25, 25-16, 25-21, 25-22 on April 7) and Division I Olentangy (25-15, 25-21, 22-25, 25-23 on April 10). The other loss was to another usual Division II regional power in Mount Vernon (22-25, 25-17, 19-25, 27-25, 15-12 on April 19).
DeSales still is trying to mesh a lineup that features new blockers in senior middle hitters Michael Brown and Caden Sanchez and sophomore setter Zach Clarke, and with former libero Max Freeman now playing outside hitter alongside Luke Hippler. Freeman and Hippler have been varsity mainstays for two seasons, while Brown, Clarke and Sanchez are in their first season as full-time varsity contributors.
Clarke previously played libero.
Hippler committed last week to play basketball at John Carroll University.
"When you have so many new guys, it's definitely going to take time to work out the kinks," Freeman said. "We are all friends. We get along together, so it's easier for us to work together and get them acclimated."
Freeman said the Stallions did a better job of responding to adversity in their most recent match against St. Charles than they did at times earlier this season, partly because of a renewed overall emphasis on defense that included more effective blocking.
"As soon as one thing goes bad, it can be like an avalanche, but in that fourth (game April 25), we were able to shake off a bad point, bring it back together and keep playing," Freeman said. "We never got into a slump. Blocking is definitely better (than earlier in the season). In that first match (against St. Charles), we got outworked on defense. But (on April 25), we competed better on defense and, along with better blocking, that's what made the difference."
Four of DeSales' final five regular-season matches will be against Division I teams, beginning Tuesday, May 9, at Hilliard Davidson. Feltz hopes that will help strengthen his squad before the regional tournament begins later this month.
"We're inconsistent and it showed," Feltz said. "That is a lack of volleyball intelligence and preparation, but I was proud of how the kids fought. We did show some moments of really good skill and fluid play. We are still hectic most of the time. But if we continue to work at our craft, keep getting better at it, we will be fine."
Boys tennis team
Boys tennis coach Tom Snyder hoped two wins last week helped his team get on a roll as the postseason approaches.
Coming off wins over Hartley (3-2 on April 25) and Whitehall (4-1 on April 26), DeSales was 4-7 overall before playing Hamilton Township on May 1 and was 1-2 in the CCL entering its league finale May 2 against Ready.
"We're seeing some of the guys get more consistent, especially in singles," Snyder said. "They're more confident in their abilities and strokes. We're still trying to find some things at doubles, the right combination of guys, but guys like Dylan Benedict and Liam Verfurth are starting to step up. We are looking to improve on that. A lot of our matches are coming down to doubles points."
According to Snyder, Verfurth felt that his 6-0, 6-1 loss to Thomas Worthington's Stephen Jackman on April 24 might have been his best match of the season.
"He's still a starter to the sport," Snyder said. "A lot of our guys are improving match by match."
DeSales also regarded the match against Hartley as a measuring stick, considering that last year the Stallions lost to the Hawks 4-1, with first singles player Armando DiMichaelangelo losing to Collin Bender 1-6, 7-6, 10-8.
On April 25, DiMichaelangelo beat Bender 6-1, 6-4.
"That was a great measuring stick for us," Snyder said. "It's something we'd circled on our calendar as an opportunity to look at last year's score and see how we have improved."
DeSales began the week closing in on its best regular-season record since 2014, when it went 5-11. The Stallions finished 1-13 last year and 2-12 in 2015.
Track teams prep
for league meet
Hurdlers and sprinters continue to be among the track and field program's top athletes as the Stallions prepare for the coming CCL meet.
Sprinter James Ervin and hurdler A.J. Sallee of the boys team, and girls sprinter Jacqueline Scott hope to sustain their recent strong performances in the league meet Monday, May 8, and Wednesday, May 10, at Columbus School for Girls.
Sallee will try to repeat as 110-meter hurdles champion, as will Ervin in the 200 and Derrius Mullins in both the discus and shot put.
Abi DeBrosse of the girls team is the defending league champion in both the 1,600 and 3,200.
"A.J. has been our go-to hurdler since he was a freshman," coach Ben McGinnis said. "He's such a strong athlete and a great kid. As he's grown and become stronger, he's found himself being needed for more than our hurdles. He's our second sprinter behind James Ervin and he's earned every bit of his time in our (400 and 800 relays), 200, 300 hurdles and 110 hurdles.
"(Middle-distance runner) Cammy Bury and Abi DeBrosse are both coming back from cross country season injuries and are getting into the swing of things again. They are both tremendous leaders."
In the Wildcat Invitational on April 21 at Westerville South, an 11-team meet comprised mostly of Division I schools, Sallee won the 110 hurdles (15.84) and placed fifth in the 300 hurdles (42.01). Scott was second in both the 100 (12.83) and 200 (26.06).
In the CCL meet, field events and running preliminaries will be held May 8, with finals for the running events being held May 10.
The boys team is trying to repeat as league champion. The Stallions scored 160 points in last year's CCL meet to finish ahead of St. Charles (156), Hartley (72), Watterson (69) and Ready (31).
The girls finished fourth (89) in the league meet a year ago, behind CSG (138), Watterson (121) and Hartley (101) and ahead of Ready (41).