A year ago, Drew Hanley was unsure of his place on the DeSales boys soccer team.

Hanley had to sit out half the season because of Ohio High School Athletic Association transfer rules after coming to the Stallions from CCL rival St. Charles, and even when he was able to play, had to battle to earn time in a crowded group of defenders.

This season as a senior, Hanley has become a leader in an overhauled lineup that returned two full-time starters and several other players who saw considerable time last year when the Stallions advanced to a Division II state semifinal.

DeSales was 5-2 overall and 0-1 in the CCL before playing Hartley on Sept. 17, having allowed five goals in its wins and seven in its losses, which came back-to-back against Worthington Kilbourne (4-2 on Sept. 5) and St. Charles (3-1 on Sept. 10).

“The biggest thing we have to work on is our communication. That is key to everything,” Hanley said. “If I don’t tell somebody to slide, that could mean (the opponent gets) a ball through and that can be trouble. It’s just little things.”

Vigo Bertolo, Alex Hatcher, Nick Kennedy and Dominic Verne also have started in the defense in front of goalkeeper Gabe Weikert. Bertolo saw the most time last season of anyone in the group, and Weikert was backup to 2019 graduate Thomas Sauer.

“Guys are getting familiarized with their positions. We’re not the deepest we’ve ever been, but a lot of guys are contributing,” coach Domenic Romanelli said. “We have played some guys in different positions. (Midfielder) Levi (Riddle) was worried about playing left back (during a 4-1 win over Hilliard Bradley on Sept. 12) and he ended up being one of the best guys on the field. They’re continuing to learn. It’s all about plugging the holes and realizing we’re playing some big boys right now.”

Jack Francisco scored DeSales’ only goal against St. Charles and added two against Bradley to increase his team-leading total to nine through seven games. Will Shaffer had six goals.

Hanley is embracing his role as a leader as the Stallions try for another strong season and a favorable seed in the Division I district tournament, in which they will compete after being bumped up because of competitive balance.

“I definitely think I am a guy to look to, whether it’s communication or setting an example in the back,” Hanley said. “I view myself as a physical and smart player. People see that and hopefully they feed off that. I also try to talk as much as I can to help people out.”

The win over Bradley prevented what would have been DeSales’ first three-game losing streak since 2013.

More than that, according to Romanelli, it restored any confidence that might have been shaken in the previous two games.

“(Last week) was a big week. We felt like we had to come out and prove something (against Bradley),” Romanelli said. “St. Charles took it to us, but the best thing that happened to us after that was that we could get back on the field against Bradley. We used a lot of guys. We have a long way to go, but we got some confidence back.”

Girls soccer team examines combinations

Girls soccer coach Bob McGee said he still was looking for a consistent lineup as the second half of the regular season began.

“I’m not sure I’ve started the same group together twice,” said McGee, whose team fell to 1-7-1 overall with a 1-0 loss at Dublin Coffman on Sept. 14 and lost its CCL opener, 4-1 at Watterson on Sept. 12. “The challenge has been one, changing my style a little bit and putting the ball on the field and letting them knock it around some to get something going.

“Two, it’s trying to find the right personnel to work together on the field. The girls have been resilient. Their work rate and willingness to learn haven’t been an issue at all.”

DeSales was shut out four times in its first nine games and held to one goal in four others, including a 2-1 loss at Bexley on Sept. 10. Morgan Gehrlich, Sophia Hipolite and Stefanie Karras each had two of the Stallions’ eight goals through eight games.

The Stallions also have played most of the season without defender Hannah Flora, who suffered a torn ACL in the team’s second game, a 2-0 loss at Westerville South on Aug. 19, and will miss the rest of the season.

“We’re trying to find the best combination defensively, too,” McGee said. “Part of it is understanding tactically what we need to do and how to shut down an opponent. Girls are more than willing to step up, but we’ve had some holes to fill.”

DeSales continues CCL play Thursday, Sept. 19, at home against Hartley.

Volleyball team closes in on title

Girls volleyball coach Brenden Pence called a 25-20, 25-16, 25-12 home win over Watterson on Sept. 12 perhaps the team’s best effort of the year, and not just because it put the Stallions on the verge of winning their seventh CCL championship in eight seasons.

Emma Brown had 15 kills, Maryanne Boyle and Saje Washington each added seven kills and Bella D’Amico had 34 assists and 12 digs against the Eagles.

The Stallions were 11-1 overall and 4-0 in the CCL before playing Ready on Sept. 17, two matches ahead of the second-place Eagles.

“(Sept. 12) was probably our most complete performance,” Pence said. “We were strong with our serves and disciplined on our side of the net. We really didn’t get rattled. We stayed within our rhythm and kept applying pressure. We’re getting better at staying calm in chaotic situations.”

DeSales finishes league play Thursday, Sept. 19, at Hartley and then has nine days off from matches before participating in the Block and Gold Invitational on Sept. 28 at Perrysburg.

The Stallions were ranked second in the area Division I coaches poll last week behind Olentangy Orange.

They went 3-0 in the Worthington Kilbourne Invitational on Sept. 14, defeating Westerville Central 25-13, 25-21, the host Wolves 24-26, 25-14, 25-13 and Hilliard Bradley 25-21, 25-19.

“Our biggest improvement has probably been our transition work,” Pence said. “We need to keep diversifying our offense and knowing where to attack when.”

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave