When the DeSales girls volleyball team plays Solon on Friday, Nov. 8, in its first Division I state tournament match since 2014, one of coach Brenden Pence's guiding principles will be at the front of his player's minds.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified a DeSales girls volleyball player in the first photo. The player is Emma Brown not Morgan Tydings.
"Our team just (goes) by the three Cs -- control, collective (effort) and confidence," middle blocker Avery Boyd said.
That seemed to show throughout the regional tournament last weekend at Worthington Kilbourne. The Stallions defeated rival Watterson 25-15, 17-25, 25-12, 25-14 in a semifinal Oct. 31 before outlasting Olentangy Orange 27-25, 25-16, 26-28, 25-22 in the final Nov. 2 behind 14 kills from Emma Brown, 13 from Maryanne Boyle and 12 from Saje Washington.
DeSales is 25-2 and carries a 13-match winning streak into the state semifinal against the Comets at Wright State. The Stallions are making their eighth state tournament appearance.
"I'm extremely proud. I can't put into words how happy I am," Boyle said. "We had to swing deep, hit high, keep our hands high, block well and just stay composed. ...
"Afterward, (Pence) was just proud of those, and those three Cs."
Bella D'Amico had 35 assists and Bridget Javitch added 24 digs against Orange.
"Our game plan is always just to maintain composure and win our side of the net. I thought we did that really well," Pence said. "We were able to take (Orange's) hitters out. They're well-coached and they don't give you many chances, so you have to take advantage of the ones you do get. We just wanted to frustrate them and block well."
While DeSales was seeded second in the district tournament behind Orange, the Stallions might have been considered the regional favorite on paper. They were 4-0 against the rest of the field, which also included Olentangy Liberty, during the regular season.
"It mattered in the back of our minds, but when you get out to the court, you have a clean slate and have to be ready to go," said Boyd, who had 14 kills against Watterson. "(Getting to state) means everything. We've been waiting for this from day one and we always wanted to get there."
Solon is 18-9 after defeating Canton GlenOak 25-18, 25-17, 26-24 in a regional final Nov. 2. The Comets are at state for the second consecutive year and fourth time overall.
The winner will play Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame or Parma Padua in the state final Saturday, Nov. 9, at Wright State.
Mount Notre Dame's 15 state appearances are second only to Newark Catholic's 20. The Cougars are seeking their 10th state title.
Padua, which was ranked sixth nationally last week by MaxPreps, is at state for the fourth year in a row and eighth time overall -- all since 2008.
DeSales lost to Mount Notre Dame 25-22, 25-15 on Aug. 24 in the Best of Ohio tournament at Toledo St. Ursula.
"At this point of the season, everybody has film on everybody, so everybody knows the style we play and the style everybody else plays," Pence said. "It really comes down to who has been in that environment. We play a very tough schedule for this reason. Everybody to this point has. Now, it's about executing and being on the same page at the same time."
The Stallions have advanced to a state final only once, in 1982, when they won the Class AA championship.
"I'm expecting a big atmosphere," Boyle said. "I'm expecting to win."
Shoemaker finishes career at state meet
Boys cross country runner John Shoemaker's only Division II state meet appearance did not turn out as he hoped, but the senior had no regrets after finishing 96th (17 minutes, 13.2 seconds) of 182 runners Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway.
"My legs were tightening up on me the entire race. I tried to fight through it, but it was definitely affecting me," Shoemaker said. "The first mile, I felt all right, but after that, guys kept passing me and I couldn't keep up. I'm still proud of my season. It was a heck of a season. What are you going to do? Just try your hardest and give everything you can."
Shoemaker, who was the boys team's top runner all season, was DeSales' second state qualifier in three years and first since Ben Towler finished 97th in 2017.
"It's nice to finish the season on the last week of the season," coach Ben McGinnis said. "They get to see what it takes to get to that next step, the dedication it takes year-round, the mileage and intensity. We never have to worry about that with John. He's on auto-pilot."
The rest of the boys' top seven is eligible to return, including juniors Isaiah Rush and Nick Schetter and freshmen Aidan Shannon, Owen Weikert and Adam Weithman.
"For the freshman boys, (the regional meet Oct. 26 at Pickerington North, in which the Stallions finished 16th) was their first big, big race. It feels a lot bigger than district does," McGinnis said.
Six of the girls team's top seven runners to end the season are eligible to return in juniors Evie Sarle and Megan Shuey, sophomores Audrey Callahan and Monica Sullivan and freshmen Josie Dages and Ellie Reash.
Dages was the team's top runner all season, finishing third in the CCL meet Oct. 12 at Otterbein and 22nd in the Division I, district 2 meet at Hilliard Darby seven days later to qualify for regional, where she placed 56th.
Girls soccer coach steps down
Bob McGee's third tenure as girls soccer coach recently came to an end, although he didn't intend for his most recent stint to last long.
McGee resigned last week after leading the Stallions to records of 4-12-2 overall and 2-1 in the CCL this season. He took over the team in July after Doug Williamson, who had been hired in January, stepped down for health reasons.
"I was just a fill-in for the year," said McGee, who coached DeSales to Division II state championships in 1995 and 2011 and a state runner-up finish in 2012. His previous stints at his alma mater were from 1993-96 and 2011-12.
"After I left Gahanna (after the 2018 season), I was planning to hang it up. I hadn't anticipated coming back. I've been coaching soccer since about 1984 and I had a good run. I was impressed with how hard the girls worked all year long. Even through adversity, they never quit."
DeSales finished second in the CCL behind Watterson (3-0) and defeated 29th-seeded Hartley 2-1 in the first round of the Division I district tournament -- its first postseason win since 2016 and only its second since 2014 -- as the 28th seed before losing to fifth-seeded Olentangy 7-0 in the second round.