Jack Ayers doesn't remember getting any cold shoulders when he transferred to DeSales High School from one of its CCL rivals, St. Charles, before his sophomore year.
Considering Ayers attended middle school and played lacrosse with many of his "new" classmates, the reaction was much warmer.
"I went to middle school with some of the guys at St. Paul so I knew a lot of people, but when I came to DeSales my first day, everybody just said, 'Welcome home,'" Ayers said.
Ayers, a junior defender, said his acclimation to the Stallions' boys lacrosse team was just as comfortable, although he had to sit out the first half of last season because of Ohio High School Athletic Association transfer rules. Now, coach Matt Triplet can't imagine the defense without Ayers as his team seeks its second consecutive Division II state championship.
"He is just that one guy who is steady game in and game out. He's a big brother-type that the other guys look to," Triplet said, calling Ayers a calming yet rallying influence. "He is the strength of the defense in terms of giving them confidence and calming everyone down. If we need fires, he can light those under other guys. He can be physical, but he doesn't stand there and talk a lot of trash on the field. He just does his job and lets his play do the talking for him."
DeSales was 8-6 overall before playing Olentangy Orange on May 7, having won five of its previous seven games. The Stallions allowed an average of 5.5 goals through their first 14 games.
Ayers lettered as a freshman at St. Charles, when he played defender and defensive midfielder but saw little playing time on a senior-laden team. Ayers could practice but not play for the Stallions during the first half of his sophomore year, but once he was eligible, he started for the remainder of the season on a unit led by Maryland recruit and eventual state Defender of the Year and first-team All-American Jack DeSantis.
Four of last year's six defensive starters graduated, thrusting Ayers into a leadership role for which he said DeSantis prepared him.
"Jack taught me everything last year and he helped me a lot mentally building as a player and physically in the weight room and on the field," Ayers said. "At the beginning of this season, I didn't really know what to do. I didn't consider myself much of a leader last year. I was just a role player, but I saw a huge gap and somebody had to step up and fill it. I try to do my best and go my hardest at all times. The defense, once they see it, everyone goes with it."
Triplet said Ayers' foot speed has been his biggest improvement since last year but added that is one of many strengths.
"If you need to slide on a play to hit a guy, he can do that. He can clear the ball. He has good vision and he can feed," Triplet said. "His footwork is pretty good and he can cover the dodgers, those smaller guys who are shiftier."
DeSales, which was ranked sixth in the state in Division II last week by LaxNumbers.com, is seeded second in the 18-team Division II, Region 7 tournament and will play host to 17th-seeded Lima Senior or 18th-seeded Johnstown in a first-round game Monday, May 13. The winner advances to a regional quarterfinal May 16.
The Stallions lost their only game last week, 10-5 to New Albany on May 2.
Ayers hopes to follow DeSantis' lead and play in college, although he is not sure at what level. Until then, he hopes to be the kind of mentor he has had the past two seasons.
"We have a lot of good guys this year (with) Dante Fuller, Noah Swenson and Nick Trostel on defense and Connor Thune in goal and I feel like we all know what we're doing," Ayers said. "We're talking and communicating a lot better. We can have a great playoff run if everything goes well."
Girls team sweeps league titles
For the fourth consecutive year, the girls lacrosse team won both the CCL and Central Independent League championships.
Having wrapped up their sixth CCL title in a row April 16 with an 18-9 win at Hartley, the Stallions routed host Bexley 17-4 on May 2 to clinch the CIL with a 6-0 record. Sophia Finotti scored four goals against the Lions and Liz Renken and Izzy Sauer both scored three.
DeSales, which went 3-0 in the CCL, was 13-1 overall before playing Olentangy Liberty on May 6 and ranked second overall in the state by LaxNumbers.com.
The Stallions, who also defeated Granville 11-2 on April 30 in CIL play and finish the regular season Thursday, May 9, at home against Olentangy Berlin, are the top seed in the 17-team Division II, Region 7 tournament and will play host to 15th-seeded Wellington or 16th-seeded Dayton Miami Valley in the first round Wednesday, May 15. The winner advances to a regional quarterfinal May 18.
Baseball team chasing CCL title
The baseball team played Hartley on May 6, hoping to gain the upper hand in the chase for the CCL championship with two league games to go.
DeSales was 13-9 overall and 5-1 in the CCL, tied with Hartley, before May 6. The Stallions defeated the Hawks 6-3 on April 24.
DeSales was scheduled to finish its CCL schedule May 7 against St. Charles, while Hartley was scheduled to finish league play May 8 against Watterson.
The Stallions won their first two league games last week, 5-1 at Watterson on April 29 and 10-0 in five innings over Ready on May 1. Aaron Kauser pitched a complete game against the Eagles, striking out 10 and allowing just two hits, and Dominic Verne struck out nine and gave up two hits in five innings against Ready. Joey Velazquez added a solo home run, his fifth of the season, in the third inning against the Silver Knights.
DeSales is seeded seventh seed in the 22-team Division II district tournament and took a first-round bye. The Stallions will play host to 20th-seeded Columbus East in the second round May 16.
Softball team ready for tourney
After finishing CCL play with a win over its biggest rival, the softball team will begin the Division II district tournament Thursday, May 9, at home with a second-round game against 10th-seeded Centennial or 11th-seeded Bexley.
The Stallions, who were 10-9 overall entering the week, are seeded seventh of 24 teams.
The second-round winner will play top-seeded Lakewood, 17th-seeded Marion-Franklin or 19th-seeded Independence in a district semifinal Tuesday, May 14, at a neutral site. That winner advances to a district final May 17 or 18.
DeSales finished 3-3 in the CCL with a 10-6 win over Watterson on April 29 at Ridgeview Middle School. Kyla Payne had three hits and three RBI and Jacqui Barber struck out nine in a complete-game win as the Stallions scored all of their runs in the final three innings, including five in the seventh, after trailing 4-0.
Boys tennis team set for sectional
The boys tennis team faced a busy week, as it was scheduled to finish CCL play with matches May 6 and 7 before participating in a Division II sectional tournament Thursday, May 9, and Saturday, May 11, at Columbus Academy.
At sectional, Michael James, Miguel Sanchez-Vazquez and Nate Stevens will play singles, while Kevin Heil and Ricci Kreuzer will play doubles together, as will Will McAfee-Weatherspoon and Liam Verfurth.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament May 16 at Academy and May 18 at Reynoldsburg.
DeSales was 8-5 overall and 0-2 in the CCL before playing Hartley on May 6. The Stallions' final league match was scheduled for May 7 against Ready, and they will wrap up the regular season Tuesday, May 13, at Big Walnut.
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales track & field and boys volleyball teams:
TRACK & FIELD
May 14, 15, 16, 18 -- Boys: Division II district meet at Westerville North. The top four finishers in each event advance to regional May 23 and 25 at Lexington.
May 15, 16, 18 -- Girls: Division I, district 3 meet at Hilliard Darby. The top four finishers in each event advance to regional May 22 and 24 at Pickerington North.
May 9 -- At Mount Vernon
May 15 -- Home vs. Whetstone