Nine DeSales High School girls lacrosse players received their Division II state championship medals June 1 at Ohio Wesleyan, then walked another few feet and were awarded their diplomas by principal Dan Garrick.
The Stallions' senior class couldn't have scripted the end of their high school and playing careers any better, as they left high school having led the program to the best four-year stretch in its history.
DeSales went 21-1 overall this season, defeating Chagrin Falls 11-3 in the state final. It was the Stallions' second title and first since this year's seniors were freshmen in 2016, but a few moments of disappointment helped define a span in which the Stallions went 76-10 overall, 27-0 in the Central Independent League and 12-0 in the CCL.
DeSales lost in state semifinals in overtime to Chagrin Falls in 2017 and Cincinnati Mariemont in 2018. The Stallions avenged the latter loss with a 13-11 win over the Warriors in a state semifinal May 29 at Centerville.
"This is definitely a special team," coach Joe Finotti said. "This class has won more games than any other class in the history of St. Francis DeSales girls lacrosse. They won 20 games (this season), which has never happened here. It's a credit to them. It's a credit to how good they and their teammates have been."
The Stallions' only loss this season was to eventual Division I state runner-up New Albany, 10-9 in the season opener March 16. DeSales then won 21 consecutive games to end the season, including an 8-5 victory over then-four-time defending Division I state champion Upper Arlington on March 21, and won its fifth consecutive CCL championship and fourth CIL title in a row.
UA had won 42 consecutive games and 76 in a row against in-state opponents dating to the 2014 season.
DeSales was ranked eighth nationally by MaxPreps last week.
"This was one of our goals from the beginning," senior defender Leah Richards said. "We had such tough endings (in the state semifinals) the last two years, but senior year, we refused to lose. This is the only way we wanted to end this. We all worked so hard."
Senior midfielder Sophia Finotti, a Cincinnati recruit, finished with 98 goals this season and 258 for her career and was named an All-American as well as first-team all-state, all-region, all-CCL and all-CIL. Senior attacker Grace Lensmire added 62 goals and 32 assists and finished her career with 212 goals, earning first-team all-league and all-region honors as well as second-team all-state.
Junior midfielder Liz Renken had 60 goals.
Sophomore goalkeeper Carmela Cua made 114 saves on 265 shots (.430 save percentage). She originally was slated to back up senior Annie Hazelton, but Hazelton did not play this season because of injury and instead served as team manager.
"I am just so excited and happy for our program," Sophia Finotti said. "To be on a team that won two state championships, that's something to be really, really proud of. This senior class, we did so well to get (to the state final) twice and win it twice. We made a lot of memories. We owe it all to our coaches."
DeSales went 6-0 in the CIL to finish a game ahead of runner-up Columbus Academy and 3-0 in the CCL to edge second-place Hartley by a game.
Cua, Lensmire, Renken and Richards were named first-team all-CCL and all-CIL. Senior Greta Cargin (defender) and sophomore Lily Jones (midfielder) were second-team all-CCL and senior Izzy Arbona (defender) was second-team all-CCL and honorable mention all-CIL.
Renken and Richards also were second-team all-region and Cua was honorable mention all-region.
Six starters from the state final are eligible to return in Cua, Jones, Renken and sophomores Lauren Clayton (defender), Gabby Mahaffey (defender) and Izzy Sauer (attacker).
"I couldn't be prouder of this team," coach Finotti said. "I'm proud of these seniors. They missed their high school graduation ceremony to come out here and win a state championship. All the players on this team gave everything the coaches asked all season."