Carmela Cua's freshman season as a goalkeeper for the DeSales High School girls lacrosse team wasn't always easy, especially when it ended in heartbreaking fashion.
But the sophomore feels like her time as a backup to Annie Hazelton, not to mention being in net for part of the Stallions' 15-14 overtime loss to Cincinnati Mariemont in a Division II state semifinal last year, prepared her for what turned out to be a starring role in goal this spring.
Cua has been DeSales' starting goalie throughout a highly successful season, as the top-seeded Stallions were 17-1 before playing fifth-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in a Division II, Region 7 semifinal May 21. She had 94 saves on 210 shots through 18 games, including two saves in a 15-7 win over fourth-seeded Watterson in a regional quarterfinal May 18.
Cua originally anticipated sharing time with Hazelton, but the latter had missed the entire season through last week because of an injury.
"I've played in high-pressure games and I know I can stay calm in situations like (a state semifinal)," Cua said. "I do have quick reactions and I have, in the past, known that I can work well under pressure, even in middle school. When the stakes are so high, I know I can perform."
Coach Joe Finotti noticed improvement in Cua's game this season, especially within the past month.
"She's had great practices and her focus has been much better. That's translated into games," Finotti said. "She seems to be more on top of things, not that she wasn't earlier in the season. She is seeing the ball better and reacting quicker."
Cua felt that she turned a corner in late April, pointing to an 11-2 win over Granville on April 30 in which she made 11 saves.
"I read an article earlier this season and a line in it said, 'Play every game like it's a state championship game.' That's how I've been thinking," Cua said. "I don't want to let (my teammates) down. I've focused on watching the ball instead of the girl and when I do that, things go better for me."
Liz Renken had six goals and Sophia Finotti scored four against Watterson.
DeSales began the tournament May 15 with a 20-1 win over 15th-seeded Wellington. Molly Ballard, Finotti, Grace Lensmire and Renken each scored three goals and Cua made two saves.
The DeSales-Kilbourne winner will play second-seeded Columbus Academy or third-seeded Granville in the regional final Friday, May 24, at a neutral site
The regional champion will face Cincinnati Indian Hill, Cincinnati Summit Country Day, Cincinnati Wyoming or Mariemont in a state semifinal Tuesday, May 28, at a neutral site. The state final is June 1 at Ohio Wesleyan.
The Stallions defeated Mariemont 9-8 on April 5, Academy 12-11 in overtime on April 25 and Granville 11-2 on April 30.
"We keep moving forward," coach Finotti said. "The second half of the season, we started talking about 'we' a lot more. It's a 'we' win. When somebody scores, it's a 'we' score and a big stop on defense is a 'we' stop. We have unfinished business."
Boys track team again wins district
The boys track and field team squeaked out its second consecutive Division II district championship last weekend, scoring 117.5 points to win the 13-team district 1 meet that concluded May 18 at Westerville South, ahead of runner-up Heath (116.5).
DeSales got wins from Angelo Ricci in the long jump (20 feet, 7 inches), Isaiah Thomas in the 200 meters (22.54 seconds), the 400 relay of Jaylen Ball, Erik Nguyen, Quintell Quinn and Thomas (43.3), the 800 relay of Ball, Ian McCandlish, Quinn and Thomas (1:30.13) and the 1,600 relay of McCandlish, Jonathan Pusateri, Thomas and Caden Zellner (3:24.66).
The top four finishers in each event advanced to regional Thursday, May 23, and Saturday, May 25, at Lexington.
Other regional qualifiers were McCandlish in the 800 (second, 1:57.59), the 3,200 relay of McCandlish, Pusateri, John Shoemaker and Zellner (second, 8:16.48), Pusateri in the 400 (third, 1.59), Quinn in the 200 (third, 23.24) and 100 (fourth, 11.59), Noah Thompson in the high jump (third, 5-10) and 300 hurdles (third, 41.92), Shoemaker in the 1,600 (fourth, 4:32.33) and Zellner in the 800 (fourth, 2:01.47).
The girls team earned its first Division I regional berths since 2016 in the 17-team district 3 meet that concluded May 18 at Hilliard Darby. Raina Jackson was runner-up in the shot put (35-3 1/4), two spots ahead of teammate Ayannah Mabry (34-5), and Alexis Johnson was fourth in the 100 hurdles (16.25) as DeSales scored 18 points and finished 14th behind champion Olentangy Orange (125.5).
The top four finishers in each event advanced to regional, which began May 22 and concludes Friday, May 24, at Pickerington North.
From both regionals, the top four finishers in each event advance to the state meet May 31 and June 1 at Ohio State.
Baseball team reaches district semifinal
The baseball team met CCL rival Hartley for the third time this year when the teams played in a Division II district semifinal May 20.
Seventh-seeded DeSales, which shared the league title with Hartley and Watterson and split its two regular-season meetings with the top-seeded Hawks, was 17-10 before the semifinal.
The Stallions cruised to a 25-0 win over 20th-seeded Columbus East in a second-round game May 16. DeSales scored 15 runs in the first inning and 10 in the second, including a three-run home run by Joey Velazquez.
Andrew Zucker threw a no-hitter, striking out 12.
The DeSales-Hartley winner played second-seeded Lakewood or fifth-seeded Licking Valley in a district final May 22. The district champion advanced to a regional semifinal May 30 at Ohio University.
Boys lacrosse team rolls to victories
The second-seeded boys lacrosse team outscored its first two opponents in the Division II, Region 7 tournament by a combined score of 36-6 and played third-seeded Columbus Academy in a regional semifinal May 20.
DeSales routed 17th-seeded Lima Senior 19-2 in a first-round game May 13 and beat seventh-seeded Bellbrook 16-4 in a quarterfinal May 16 to improve to 12-6.
The semifinal winner plays top-seeded Watterson or fourth-seeded Licking Valley in the regional final Thursday, May 23, at a neutral site. The regional champion will play Cincinnati Indian Hill, Cincinnati Turpin, Wyoming or Mariemont in a state semifinal Wednesday, May 29, at a neutral site.
The state final is June 1 at Ohio Wesleyan.
Tennis season ends at district
A season that saw the boys tennis team win 10 matches for the second year in a row and advance a doubles team to the Division II district tournament ended May 16 when juniors Will McAfee-Weatherspoon and Liam Verfurth lost to Wellington's Griffin Biernat and Milan Gonela 6-0, 6-0 in the first round at district.
The top two finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state Friday, May 24, and Saturday, May 25, at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
DeSales went 10-6 overall, finishing its regular season with a 3-2 loss at Big Walnut on May 14, and 2-2 in the CCL to place third behind champion St. Charles (4-0). The Stallions went 10-5 in 2018.
Most of the lineup is eligible to return, including juniors Miguel Sanchez-Vazquez and Nate Stevens and sophomores Kevin Heil and Michael James. Stevens anchored the lineup at first singles for most of the season.
Softball team falls in district semifinal
The seventh-seeded softball team capped a season of considerable improvement by giving top-seeded Lakewood all it could handle in a Division II district semifinal May 14 before falling 7-6 to the Lancers at Pickerington Central.
Junior Megan Husslein (3B) had two hits, including a three-run home run, and three RBI, and senior Aubrey Wilcox (OF) and sophomore Kendall Gonya (C) each added two hits for DeSales, which finished 14-11 overall.
Junior pitcher Jacqui Barber gave up 11 hits and struck out 10 in a complete-game loss for the Stallions, who led 6-4 entering the bottom of the seventh.
The Stallions were making their first district semifinal appearance since 2014, when they were district runners-up.
DeSales, which doubled its win total from last year when it was 7-13, had won three of its previous four games before losing to the Lancers.
The Stallions went 3-3 in the CCL, tying Watterson for second behind Ready (6-0).
Senior Kyla Payne (SS) is an Ohio Dominican recruit and senior Faith Strapp (2B) will play at Urbana.
Season ends for boys volleyball team
The boys volleyball team's season came to an end May 18 with a 25-14, 25-16, 25-18 loss to Kilbourne in the second round of the Division II East Region tournament at Licking Heights.
DeSales, which was seeded fifth, finished 9-11.
The Stallions came in having won five of their previous six matches, including two last week to end the regular season, as they beat Whetstone 25-12, 25-10, 25-11 on May 15 and New Albany 25-22, 27-29, 25-15, 25-10 the next day.
Girls basketball coach named
Erick Herzberg was named girls basketball coach May 15, and athletics director Tom Neubert hoped Herzberg could bring DeSales the same kind of success he had in his previous job.
Herzberg coached Westerville South to its second consecutive Division I district championship and second OCC-Buckeye Division title in a row in his only season with the program, but resigned April 4 for personal reasons.
Herzberg succeeds Brian Cromwell, who went 119-94 overall and 37-30 in the CCL in nine seasons but was not brought back after the team went 6-17 overall and 1-6 in the league this past season.
Herzberg went 26-19 at Linden-McKinley from 2015-17, winning 15 games in his first season after the Panthers had won seven games the previous two years combined, and went 12-13 in one season at Lakewood before arriving at South last September. South went 19-6 overall and 10-0 in the OCC-Buckeye, losing to eventual state runner-up Pickerington Central 71-44 in a regional semifinal.
"His amount of coaching experience, first and foremost, made him a great candidate and so did the fact that he talked a lot about building a culture," Neubert said. "He graduated from St. Charles, so he knows the CCL. All of those things combined went in his favor. He's going to put a big emphasis on building numbers, getting more girls into the program."