When it comes to Sophia Finotti's outstanding career with the DeSales High School girls lacrosse team, her father and teammate Grace Lensmire both have a favorite story to tell that they think illustrates why she has become such a dominant player.
Coach Joe Finotti fondly remembers when he coached soccer a decade ago and his daughter was one of his players, only she didn't really like to play.
"She wouldn't leave my side because she was scared. It wasn't the physical, aggressive style that she plays now in lacrosse," coach Finotti said. "She has evolved, and I think a lot of that has to do with watching (her older sister) Jennie evolve. She plays a lot like Jennie when it comes to physicality and aggressiveness and having a sense of when to go to the cage."
Jennie Finotti, a 2018 DeSales graduate who played attacker, scored a program-record 248 goals during her prep career and now plays for the University of Cincinnati.
Sophia, a senior midfielder who signed with UC in November, has a chance to rival her sister's production within the next two months. She scored a school-record 78 goals last season, breaking Jennie's record of 76 set in 2016, and had 204 career goals -- including 43 through nine games this season -- before the Stallions played Hartley on April 16.
"I show by action more than by words. I want to take it to every team. I think I need to do a lot for my team. That's what they deserve," Sophia said. "It's kind of funny (about not wanting to play soccer) because I feel like I'm pretty competitive now. I wasn't into soccer as much, but I love playing lacrosse and competing. Maybe I was a little scared to get out there."
Finotti scored her 200th career goal during an 18-8 win over Watterson on April 11 at Fortress Obetz. That was her second consecutive five-goal game, after a 16-6 win over Columbus School for Girls on April 9.
Lensmire, who set a program record of her own last season with 103 points, recalled a brief talk with Finotti after the Stallions lost to Chagrin Falls 9-8 in two overtimes in a Division II state semifinal their sophomore year.
"I was walking out of the stadium (at Wooster) alone and I felt this tug on my backpack. It was Soph and she just gave me a hug," Lensmire said. "She's like, 'It's all us next year.' That was our conversation. We promised ourselves we'd do everything we could to get back to the state tournament. It's personal now for us."
DeSales lost in a state semifinal again last year, to eventual state champion Mariemont, but began this season on a tear. The Stallions opened March 16 with a 10-9 loss to last year's Division I state runner-up, New Albany, but since then have defeated defending Division I state champion Upper Arlington, 8-5 on March 21, and Mariemont, 9-8 on April 5.
The next day, they edged Cincinnati Sycamore, a Division I state semifinalist from a year ago, 13-11.
Finotti also feels that her older sister's influence played a large part in boosting her production her freshman and sophomore seasons.
"She got on me, but I look up to her a lot. That's helped me," Finotti said. "It was all good things she was telling me, but she would get on me. It was about me as a player, getting into the game and controlling my emotions. Sister-to-sister, she was able to get her point across."
DeSales routed Olentangy Orange 18-3 on April 12 and was 8-1 overall and 2-0 in both the CCL and Central Independent League before playing Hartley.
According to coach Finotti, a handful players who were injured before the season have rejoined the team, including defender Erin Burns, attacker Hannah Magold and midfielder Gabby Mahaffey. He wasn't worried about his veteran players having to do more than they otherwise might have because of the injuries.
"Sometimes, games can get emotional and stressful," coach Finotti said. "Sophia's proven over her first three years here that she can handle that. I never doubted that mentally she could be tough and handle taking on more. She's proved me right."
Baseball team erasing slow start
The baseball team had a 10-hour drive home from The Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to reflect on a 1-4 start, but coach Tom Neubert still hoped five days between games would be enough time for the Stallions to change course.
They did, reeling off four consecutive wins to get back above .500 and were 6-6 overall and 0-1 in the CCL before playing Ready on April 15.
DeSales was outscored 31-8 in five games in Myrtle Beach, including a 10-0, six-inning loss to Chagrin Falls to end the trip March 29. The Stallions did not play again until April 3, when they edged host Pickerington North 3-2 for the first of three wins within a 72-hour stretch.
DeSales beat Mansfield Madison 13-1 in five innings April 4 and scored four runs in the seventh inning April 6 to top host Big Walnut 6-5.
"Sometimes when you're sitting there not having success, that can be when the players really get that it's time to work," Neubert said. "We came back (April 1) and had a great practice. There's a renewed focus when things aren't going well. They knew it was unacceptable the way we were playing. We've been able to find ways to score runs and win games, whether it's drawing walks, hitting the ball, getting hit or putting the ball in play to put pressure on the defense."
Four players were batting .375 or better through 10 games, led by Aaron Kauser (.474, 6 RBI), Colin Doyle (.375), Owen Faulkner (.375, 5 RBI), Joey Velazquez (.375, 9 RBI). Velazquez had both of the team's home runs through 11 games.
DeSales lost to Watterson 2-1 in its CCL opener April 12 and defeated Marysville 8-4 the next day.
"We are just finding ways to get on base and score runs," Neubert said. "Some days, it's the top of the lineup. Other days, it's been the bottom or guys coming off the bench. It's been a great team effort to get these wins. That's a fun thing."
Defense helping pace boys lacrosse team
The boys lacrosse team entered a busy stretch trying to find consistency after a 3-4 start, as a 16-4 win over Granville on April 11 was the first of six games in 17 days.
The Stallions followed that up with an 11-2 win at Upper St. Clair (Pennsylvania) on April 13 and were 5-4 before playing St. Charles on April 17.
How that start occurred surprised coach Matt Triplet, as he said the defense has been more consistent than the offense despite the fact that the Stallions lost four starters from their defense and midfield from last year's Division II state championship team to graduation.
"I expected everything to be flip-flopped," Triplet said. "It's almost a new defense coming back, whereas the offense had a lot of veterans. It's been working well with the guys we've put out there. We're trying to find an identity for the offensive side right now. It will come along."
DeSales outscored its first eight opponents 71-44, with its first three losses coming by a combined four goals. The other loss was to Springboro, 9-2 on April 6.
According to Triplet, several underclassmen have performed well, including sophomores Kahleb Lang (midfielder) and Andrew Mahle (midfielder) and freshmen Jackson Carawan (attacker) and David Chintala (midfielder).