For a few reasons, DeSales High School cross country coaches and runners might have had a tough time making predictions for this season.
The boys team lost its top runner over the summer when Ben Towler, who led the Stallions in all but one race a year ago and advanced to the Division II state meet, transferred to Gahanna.
Not only did the girls team lose its top two runners in 2018 graduates Cammy Bury and Abi DeBrosse, but according to assistant coach Amy Schockling, no runner this year has more than one year of experience at the varsity level.
According to Schockling, perhaps the top benefit is that competition on both teams has continued the entire season and should peak as the Stallions participate in the CCL meet on Saturday, Oct. 13, at Otterbein. That will be the last chance for runners to make the top seven, as the district meets follow Oct. 20 at Hilliard Darby.
John Shoemaker has been the boys team's top runner four times and was second in the other two meets to Ian McCandlish. Anya Vanasdale has led the girls team three times, while Bre Callahan has led the Stallions twice and Gracey Wilson has led them once.
"With the boys, I expected some stability at the top, but it's the lower half of the lineup where we never quite know what will go on. We still have multiple kids fighting for the sixth and seventh spots on varsity," Schockling said. "The girls have been kind of the same way: stable at the top but with the two freshmen (Audrey Callahan and Monica Sullivan) sliding in. It's been great because of how extra competitive it's been. The younger girls are bringing the heat. The older ones know they have to keep improving."
Vanasdale, a junior, ran as a freshman but missed all of last year because of ankle injuries. She sprained her right ankle before the season and ended up with tendonitis in both ankles.
"I just really wanted to push myself," Vanasdale said. "Freshman year, I was not laying low but just seeing where I was because I had never really run competitively before. This year, I am trying to push myself to my best every time. I am really proud. I didn't expect this to happen to me."
Bre Callahan owns the best time of the season for the girls team, having run 21 minutes, 19.9 seconds in the Tiger Invitational on Sept. 22 at Pickerington Central.
Shoemaker ran the boys team's best time of 17:27.6, also at the Tiger Invitational, but felt he had a better race a week later, when he finished 14th in 17:42.3 in the Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic on Sept. 29 at London Country Club.
"London might have been my best race ever," said Shoemaker, a junior. "I felt really good. It was a rough course and I did OK on it."
McCandlish, a senior, hopes that a group of runners that includes junior Nico Cadena and sophomores Isaac Rush, Isaiah Rush and Nick Schetter can close the gap between him, Shoemaker and the usual third runner, Jonathan Pusateri.
"It's been nice to build a team around ourselves," McCandlish said. "The last couple years, we've always had a nice pack. We've been working together and working really hard to make sure the other guys' times are getting closer to ours."
The girls team will try to defend its CCL championship this weekend. They scored 37 points at last year's league meet to finish ahead of Hartley (45), Watterson (52), Columbus School for Girls (90) and Ready (144).
The boys finished third (78) in the league meet a year ago, behind St. Charles (24) and Watterson (54) and ahead of Hartley (89) and Ready (136).
At district, the boys team will compete in Division II and the girls will be in Division I.
Volleyball team resets before tourney
The girls volleyball team enters the Division I district tournament having played just three matches since Sept. 29, all of which came in a quad Oct. 6 at Hilliard Darby that also included Jonathan Alder and Olentangy Liberty.
DeSales will open the postseason Wednesday, Oct. 17, and coach Brendan Pence said such a stretch comes with both positives and negatives.
"The positives are that we have a little time to rest and ... refocus on our system and executing on our side of the net. We also can be very methodical on how we construct and build during practices," Pence said. "The negative is that we won't have as many live matches, but we purposely save two scrimmage dates for the last leg of the season so that we can schedule some strong local teams in a scrimmage format to get us ready for a tournament run. That seemed to work well for us last season as well."
DeSales is 14-8 overall. The Stallions finished CCL play at 6-2 with a 25-21, 21-25, 26-24, 19-25, 15-10 loss to Watterson on Sept. 27 and ultimately shared the league championship with Hartley and Watterson. The Eagles clinched their share with a 25-13, 25-14, 25-10 win over Columbus School for Girls on Oct. 2.
At Darby, DeSales defeated the host Panthers 25-15, 25-15 and Jonathan Alder 21-25, 25-22, 27-25 and lost to Liberty 24-26, 25-20, 25-22.
The Stallions earned the 11th seed for the 49-team district tournament. They took a first-round bye and will play 10th-seeded Upper Arlington or 30th-seeded Teays Valley in the second round Wednesday, Oct. 17, on the better-seeded team's home court.
The winner will play ninth-seeded Dublin Scioto, 44th-seeded Briggs or 45th-seeded Walnut Ridge in a district semifinal Oct. 23 at Franklin Heights.
DeSales has not played Teays Valley or UA this season.
"We did a great job refocusing on a 'season reset.' Now that CCL play is over and the emotions of (losing to Watterson) have passed, we have to refocus to finish strong," Pence said. "We spent a lot of time working on just controlling the controllables. When we are solid on our side of the net, we are a very tough team to beat."
Girls golfers earn district berth
The girls golf team began last week by advancing to its first Division I district tournament since 2010 and ended it by competing for the inaugural CCL championship.
Amanda Pancake shot an 87 to lead DeSales in a sectional Oct. 2 at Mentel Memorial, leading the Stallions to a team score of 372 and third place behind champion Upper Arlington (319) as 11 teams scored. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.
Gahanna also shot a 372, but DeSales won a fifth-player tiebreaker by virtue of Lizzy Gutman shooting a 117 and the Lions playing with only four golfers.
"Out of 33 teams in this district, I felt six teams were locks (to make district), like New Albany and Upper Arlington," coach Charlie Mitchell said. "That left three spots for 27 teams and when we were seeded, I got the feeling it was between us and Gahanna for the last spot. That's just a reality of life in Division I. This is such a powerhouse district."
Also scoring for DeSales were Paige Verfurth (92), Faith Corn (96) and Stephanie Circelli (97).
Dublin Coffman (333) earned the other team berth to district.
The Stallions had not been represented at district since 2011, when Samantha Chapman qualified as an individual.
At district, the top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to the state tournament Oct. 19 and 20 at Ohio State's Gray Course.
DeSales finished last week by winning the first CCL championship Oct. 6 at NorthStar. The Stallions shot a 385 in the second and final round of the league tournament to finish second behind Columbus School for Girls (382) and ahead of Watterson (387), Hartley (396) and Ready (491) and went 7-1 to tie CSG atop the league ahead of Watterson (4-4), Hartley (2-6) and Ready (0-8).
DeSales won the tiebreaker with the Unicorns based on total strokes in two rounds, 751 to 764.
Season ends for girls tennis team
Izzy Arbona of the girls tennis team came within one win of advancing to the Division I district tournament, losing to Olentangy Orange's Hunter Logan 6-1, 7-6 (6-3) in a third-round match of a sectional Oct. 5 at Pickerington Central.
Arbona was trying to become DeSales' first district qualifier since 2012.
Also competing but failing to advance in singles were juniors Megan Husslein (1-1) and Cate Leithauser (0-1), and the doubles teams of seniors Erin Miler and Aubrey Wilcox (1-1) and junior Elaina Murray and freshman Molly Ballard (0-1).
Husslein was seeded third.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to the district tournament Thursday, Oct. 11, and Saturday, Oct. 13, at Reynoldsburg.
DeSales closed the regular season Oct. 3 with a 5-0 loss to Mount Vernon to finish 12-4 overall and defeated CSG 4-1 on Oct. 1 to finish 3-1 in the CCL.
Zevchik falls short of state in boys golf
Junior Kyle Zevchik of the boys golf team shot an 87 in the Division II district tournament Oct. 3 at Denison Golf Club, falling short of a state berth.
Zevchik tied West Jefferson's Joe Thompson for 27th of 36 golfers.
The top team and top individual not on the qualifying team advanced to state Friday, Oct. 12, and Saturday, Oct. 13, at Ohio State's Scarlet Course. Columbus Academy shot a 304 to finish five strokes ahead of runner-up Bexley (309) as six teams scored.
Bexley's Trevor Binau shot a 75 to earn the individual state berth.
Zevchik is one of four golfers from DeSales' postseason lineup who are expected to return. The only senior is Joe Valentine.
"It's a great group of kids," first-year coach Tony Pinson said. "It's been a great year and I look forward to hopefully doing it again next year."
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales boys soccer and girls soccer teams:
Oct. 11 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson
Oct. 13 -- Home vs. Cincinnati Indian Hill
Oct. 20 -- Home vs. 15th-seeded Beechcroft or 17th-seeded Sparta Highland in second round of Division II district tournament. The Stallions are seeded first.
Oct. 11 -- At Grove City
Oct. 15 -- At 25th-seeded Thomas Worthington in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner visits fourth-seeded Dublin Coffman in second round Oct. 18. The Stallions are seeded 26th.