This season could not come fast enough for the DeSales High School boys soccer team, and especially for Zach Garrett.
In his third year as a starter, Garrett is one of the centerpieces of a veteran defense that again is proving itself as one of the area's best, but that is not the only reason Garrett was more than ready for his senior season.
In the second overtime of a Division II state semifinal against Kettering Alter last year, a throw-in glanced backward off Garrett's head into the left corner of the goal, too fast for Stallions goalkeeper Chase Agin to react, and a game in which DeSales had dominated possession -- especially late -- ended in a 1-0 defeat.
"Everybody just wanted to get back at it," Garrett said. "We wanted to be undefeated, have our record unblemished, but we took that tie earlier. You have to keep working hard and moving forward. You can't dwell."
DeSales is unbeaten, although not perfect, with a 14-0-1 record entering its regular-season finale Saturday, Oct. 14, at Cincinnati Indian Hill. Ranked first in last week's Division II state poll and the top seed in the 27-team district tournament, the Stallions completed a dominant run through the CCL with a 2-0 victory over St. Charles on Oct. 3 to clinch the outright league title.
With Josh Conroy and Garrett anchoring the defense at center back, and Fermin Lopez and Bryan Roach at outside backs in front of Agin in goal, DeSales has 10 shutouts, including a 4-0 win at Lexington on Oct. 5.
"A lot of it starts with other pressure up top and our midfield, winning every 50-50 ball and not letting (opposing) forwards get the ball. We want to force the issue and not let (opponents) have possession," Garrett said. "So much of it is about focus. We always want shutouts, of course, but that comes with a strong bond. We only lost one starter (Anthony Salmeron) from last year. We just tried to grow off of last year."
Coach Domenic Romanelli acknowledged that Conroy and Garrett both have expressed interest in being more involved in the offense, but said their talents are too vital to the defense.
"Zach and I have a unique but difficult relationship, and I mean that in a good way," Romanelli said. "It's not a position he wants to play. I know that. Conroy, too. But this is what it is. They are my two best center backs. How many people in the state of Ohio have their goalkeepers and three (defenders) back? You have that mix, I won't play with it.
"With Conroy, it's his size (6 foot) and ability to win those balls. He's better when he's aggressive. They work with each other. One guy presses and the other guy drops back."
Garrett and Hector Gomez, who has a team-high 20 goals, were the only two freshmen on varsity when DeSales won the Division II state championship in 2014.
Gomez scored both goals against St. Charles, including one on a penalty kick.
The Stallions have outscored league opponents 39-0 the last two seasons combined, going 7-0-1 in those games. The game they did not win was a scoreless tie last year against St. Charles, leading to a split CCL title between the two teams.
"I take a lot of pride in that," Agin said. "Those are the big games. Those are the ones where we really want to show up. We took (the St. Charles game) personally because we hadn't won an outright CCL title since my freshman year. We just wanted to get that done."
DeSales took a first-round bye in the district tournament and will play host to 18th-seeded Linden-McKinley or 20th-seeded Licking Valley in a second-round game Oct. 21.
Girls soccer team
clinches league title
Despite finishing CCL play with a scoreless tie against Columbus School for Girls on Oct. 5, the girls soccer team still celebrated its first league championship since 2011.
DeSales is 5-7-3 overall and finished 3-0-1 in the CCL, ahead of runner-up Watterson (3-1), which the Stallions defeated 2-1 on Sept. 7.
"We didn't take anything for granted, but the opportunity to win the CCL is something that means so much to us," forward Gabby Elliott said.
DeSales, which finishes the regular season Thursday, Oct. 12, at home against Hilliard Davidson, is seeded 17th in the 42-team Division I district tournament and will visit 11th-seeded Grove City in the first round Oct. 19.
Cross country teams
prep for league meet
The cross country teams took last weekend off before the most important meets of the season.
DeSales will compete in the CCL meet Saturday, Oct. 14, at Otterbein University, hoping to improve on third-place finishes by both the boys and girls a year ago.
The boys had 86 points in last year's league meet to finish behind St. Charles (20) and Watterson (45) and ahead of Hartley (94) and Ready (149). The girls scored 70 points to finish behind Watterson (18) and CSG (65) and ahead of Hartley (78) and Ready (143).
Coach Ben McGinnis hopes the boys team's season-long pack approach will prove beneficial this weekend. In seven meets thus far this season, the team's top five runners had been separated by an average of 1 minute, 10 seconds.
"My prediction at the beginning of the season was that the pack would make for a strong (boys) team and that's come true. Even in the summer, they were running fast together," McGinnis said. "Our (No. 1 runner), Ben Towler, has been killing it, but the rest of the boys stay with him at practice. In races, he's faster, but we're getting a good pack vibe. And everyone has been healthy. That's the key at this point."
Cammy Bury and Abi DeBrosse have been the girls team's top two runners in that order in all but one meet this season.
According to McGinnis, the Stallions devoted last weekend to team-bonding activities.
Boys golfers fall
short at district
Boys golf coach Mike McGoldrick liked how his team competed in the Division II district tournament Oct. 4 at Denison Golf Club at Granville, although the Stallions fell two spots shy of their first state berth since 2013.
Senior Alex Miller shot an 86 to lead DeSales to a team score of 356, third behind Columbus Academy (302) and Bexley (306) as six teams scored. The top team and top individual not on the qualifying team advanced to state Friday, Oct. 13, and Saturday, Oct. 14, at NorthStar.
Also scoring for the Stallions were seniors Rob Landis (88), Andrew Richards (90) and Brett Husslein (92). The team's only projected returnee, sophomore Michael Cummins, shot a 93.
"We knew there was going to be real tough competition. We wanted to have the right mentality coming in that we were here to compete to advance and they grinded it out on the course," McGoldrick said. "It's a tough course. I'm proud of the way they stayed in it.
"At this district tournament alone, you have some the best teams in the state of Ohio in Division II. It's unfortunate that at least two of those teams won't get out and it's unfortunate that a lot of really talented players won't be moving on, but that's the nature of the beast for golf in Ohio."
DeSales went 0-6 in the CCL to finish fourth behind St. Charles (6-0) and Hartley and Watterson (both 3-3).
In a sectional Sept. 26 at Oakhaven, Richards shot an 83 to lead the Stallions to a third-place finish (338) behind Academy (303) and Hartley (317) as 12 teams scored.
McGoldrick, who served as an assistant under Tom Eckl before taking over as head coach in 2015, said he will particularly miss this year's seniors.
"When I started with the program, my first year was their freshman year, so I've kind of progressed along with them," McGoldrick said. "It's going to be tough to see them leave."
Girls golf season
ends at sectional
Considering his team's performance in a Division I sectional Oct. 3 at Mentel Memorial was 27 shots better than last year at that stage on the same course, girls golf coach Charlie Mitchell walked away from the season pleased.
The rub for DeSales was that its team placement did not improve.
Freshman Paige Corn's 88 led the Stallions, who finished seventh (377) behind champion Dublin Jerome (314) as 12 teams scored. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 10 at Cooks Creek.
"Like every team, we left some shots out there," Mitchell said. "We took a lot of steps forward this year. We had some players work really hard to shore up their games, and that showed not just (at sectional) but all year. Unfortunately, we didn't score quite as low as we wish we would have."
Also scoring for DeSales were sophomore Paige Verfurth (90), freshman Amanda Pancake (97), senior Kennedy Pannell (102) and junior Stephanie Circelli (105).
Gahanna (339) and Dublin Coffman (346) earned the other district berths.
"A hole these girls might have double-bogeyed 90 days ago was a bogey or a par by the end of the season," Mitchell said. "This team did not dwell if something went wrong. They learned how to cut their losses and moved on."
DeSales went 15-2 in the Mid-Ohio Girls Golf League tournament, finishing second behind Granville (12-1) and ahead of CSG (10-7), Centerburg (6-11) and Licking Valley (0-17). The Stallions won the first round of the league tournament Aug. 7 at Champions, shooting a 423 to edge runner-up CSG (427).
"I reminded the girls that of our top three scorers (at sectional), two of them were freshmen and one was a sophomore," Mitchell said. "I truly believe we have a good chance of getting to district next year."
Strong tennis season
ends at sectional
The girls tennis team won seven matches in a Division I sectional Oct. 6 at Upper Arlington but fell just short of advancing players to district.
The doubles team of junior Erin Miller and sophomore Megan Husslein went 2-1, losing to UA's Ella Hazelbaker and Noel Mizer 6-1, 6-0 in a district-qualifying match. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament Thursday, Oct. 12, at Hilliard Bradley and Saturday, Oct. 14, at UA.
DeSales went 7-5 at sectional.
Also competing but failing to advance were the doubles team of juniors Miranda Draminski and Aubrey Wilcox (1-1), and senior Alex Foos (2-1), junior Izzy Arbona (1-1) and sophomore Cate Leithauser (1-1) in singles.
DeSales went 12-7 overall for its most wins since 2009, when it finished 15-3, and 2-2 in the CCL to finish third, behind CSG (4-0) and Watterson (3-1) and ahead of Hartley (1-3) and Ready (0-4).
Junior Allison Goetz also saw playing time this year and is projected to return.
Below is the coming schedule for the DeSales girls volleyball team:
Oct. 19 -- Home vs. 35th-seeded Whetstone or 38th-seeded Centennial in second round of Division I district tournament. The Stallions are seeded third.