The DeSales High School girls lacrosse team thrived off its defense in two wins against Chagrin Falls this season, perhaps most notably late in the first half of the Division II state final June 1 at Ohio Wesleyan.
Preserving a two-goal lead less than three minutes before halftime, goalkeeper Carmela Cua stopped a free position shot by the Tigers' Mia Razavi. The rebound caromed back to the Stallions, and on a quick transition, defender Leah Richards found herself wide open for a goal that made it 5-2 and put momentum squarely on the Stallions' side as they cruised to an 11-3 win and their second title in four seasons.
"Once (Cua) made that save, it got our energy going," said Richards, who had 11 goals this season but hadn't scored since a May 6 game against Olentangy Liberty. "I saw the opportunity going down the field and I knew I had to take it. From the beginning of the game, we all had really high energy and that just boosted it."
DeSales finished 21-1, closing the season on a 21-game winning streak. Its only loss came in the season opener, 10-9 to eventual Division I state runner-up New Albany on March 16.
Sophia Finotti scored five goals and Grace Lensmire added four against Chagrin Falls to lead DeSales, which also defeated the Tigers 13-4 on April 27 and 10-7 in the 2016 state final.
"It almost feels unreal," Finotti said. "We still had some butterflies, but we were pretty confident in how we usually play. We thought we'd win, but none of us came into this game overconfident and thinking ahead. It was a new game. We just had to keep pushing."
Cua made seven saves as DeSales took an early 3-1 lead and never trailed.
The Stallions outshot Chagrin Falls 23-13 and held the Tigers without a goal for 19 minutes, 33 seconds spanning the first and second halves while building an 8-3 lead. Cregan Mee scored her second goal of the game with 11:39 left to break the Tigers' drought, but Lensmire answered just more than two minutes later to make it 9-3.
Finotti added her final goal 43 seconds later, sending the Tigers to their fifth consecutive state runner-up finish.
"We kept our foot on the gas and things continued to work out for us," coach Joe Finotti said. "We just had to be strong on help defense and slide well. We knew if we did that, good things would happen."
DeSales was coming off an emotional 13-11 win over Cincinnati Mariemont in a state semifinal May 29 at Centerville. Liz Renken scored five goals and Lensmire added four goals and three assists as the Stallions avenged an overtime loss to the Warriors in a 2018 state semifinal and snapped a two-game losing streak at that stage of the postseason.
The win brought plenty of celebration and tears.
"We tried to get our bodies rested because (the Mariemont) game was so tough," Sophia Finotti said. "We've tried to get our sleep, but these last two days, we were really restless. We had team dinners together and tried to make the time go faster. We couldn't wait to get here."
Thomas, relays lead track team at state
The 3,200-meter relay capped a season of improvement by finishing sixth (8 minutes, 4.15 seconds) in the Division II state track and field meet held May 31 and June 1 at Ohio State, leading the boys team to seven points and a tie for 37th behind champion Shelby (57) as 76 teams scored.
The relay was as far back as 15th place before junior John Shoemaker brought them to eighth place on the third leg and senior Ian McCandlish, a Wittenberg recruit, anchored. Seniors Jonathan Pusateri and Caden Zellner ran the first two legs.
"I had three or four guys come around me on my right side during the first lap and one guy (passed me) on the second lap and I passed them all before the end," McCandlish said. "I usually have a good kick at the end of a race."
Junior Isaiah Thomas finished eighth in the 200 (22.8) and was on the eighth-place 400 relay with junior Jaylen Ball and sophomores Erik Nguyen and Quintell Quinn (43.29).
Placing 12th were the 800 relay of McCandlish, Quinn, senior Angelo Ricci and Thomas (1:30.19) and the 1,600 relay of McCandlish, Pusateri, Thomas and Zellner (3:26.79).
DeSales was coming off a third-place finish (43) in the regional meet that concluded May 25 at Lexington behind champion Shelby (77) as 44 teams scored.
Thomas won the 200 in 21.96, breaking Mike Sansone's 44-year-old program record by .04 of a second. The 1,600 relay was second (3:24.53), the 3,200 relay was third (8:04.28) and the 400 relay (43.15) and 800 relay (1:30.59) both finished fifth.
The top four finishers in each event automatically advanced to state. In addition, at-large berths were awarded to the next two fastest times in each event statewide.
Also competing at regional were Ricci in the long jump (fifth, 21 feet, 5 1/2 inches), McCandlish in the 800 (seventh, 22.67), Quinn in the 100 (seventh, 11.3) and 200 (seventh, 23.03), Shoemaker in the 1,600 (eighth, 4:37.27), Pusateri in the 400 (12th, 52.26), senior Noah Thompson in the high jump (12th, 5-10) and 300 hurdles (14th, 42.88) and Zellner in the 800 (13th, 2:09.17).
All three athletes for the girls team who competed in the Division I regional meet that concluded May 24 at Pickerington North are eligible to return in juniors Raina Jackson and Ayannah Mabry, who finished 11th (34-6 1/4) and 15th (30-4 3/4), respectively, in the shot put, and sophomore Alexis Johnson, who was 12th in the 100 hurdles (16.53).
They were the Stallions' first regional qualifiers since 2016.
DeSales' only CCL champion, junior high jumper Maryanne Boyle, also is expected back, as are junior Anya Vanasdale (distance) and Cara Jewett (sprints).
Others eligible to return for the boys team include Gavin Brown (throws), Luke Jewett (throws) and Colin Moriarty (sprints, middle distance). Brown was league champion in the discus.
Boys lacrosse team falls short of repeat
The boys lacrosse team scored four goals in the first quarter of a Division II state semifinal May 29 at Centerville but was held to two thereafter, including only one in the second half, and fell to Cincinnati Mariemont 8-6 at Centerville.
Senior attacker Tommy Clayton had three goals, the last coming in the third quarter, as DeSales finished 14-7. Sophomore midfielder Kole Perrine scored both of his goals in the first three minutes of the game and senior goalkeeper Connor Thune had 12 saves.
"In the second half, both defenses clamped down and we started going away from the corners of the cage to hitting the goalie and not making great shot selections," said coach Matt Triplet, whose team fell short of its second consecutive state championship. "We didn't capitalize on transition opportunities like we should have. ... We told the defense to allow those 12- to 15-yard shots because Connor is going to make that save. We were limiting everything on the inside and giving them the outside."
Mariemont outscored DeSales 6-1 in the second quarter, with half of those goals coming in 23 seconds, to erase a 4-1 deficit. Clayton's second-half goal made it 7-6, but Will Stutenroth scored an insurance goal for the Warriors with 4:02 left.
Clayton, a Jacksonville recruit, finished an injury-shortened season with 42 goals and 10 assists and was named first-team all-region and an All-American. He missed the team's first seven games because of a broken hand.
Perrine added 37 goals and 12 assists and senior attacker Grant Rodgers, a Limestone recruit, had 33 goals and 14 assists.
Juniors Jack Ayers (defender), Dante Fuller (defender) and Noah Swenson (defender/long-stick midfielder) and sophomore Nick Trostel (defender/long-stick midfielder) were named first-team all-region. Thune and Perrine were second-team all-region and Rodgers and junior Chris Fleisher (midfielder) were honorable mention all-region.
Senior attacker Carter Hilleary is an Ohio State recruit. Thune will play at Otterbein.
"We've been able to experience things that a lot of other teams in our region and the state haven't experienced," Triplet said. "We've had a lot of success. Getting here is a big deal, but nothing is guaranteed."