FAIRBORN — To help the DeSales girls volleyball team get to a place it hadn’t been in a generation, coach Brenden Pence took them to the place that helped get him where he is.
A spirited walk-thru at Pence’s alma mater, Beavercreek, emphasized serve receive and helped the Stallions refocus before the Division I state final Nov. 9 against undefeated and nationally ranked Parma Padua at Wright State.
“Knowing we’d be facing some tough serves, we spent a lot of time on that,” Pence said. “We hadn’t seen the rotational defense they ran, so we spent a lot of time on where to attack and where we couldn’t.”
In the Stallions’ first state final appearance in 37 years, Robert Morris-commit Emma Brown and Providence-bound Maryanne Boyle recorded 17 and 16 kills, respectively, as DeSales upset Padua 19-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-22.
Georgia Tech-commit Bella D’Amico added 43 assists and 18 digs, Bridget Javitch had 28 digs and Gabby D’Amico added 19 digs as DeSales won its second championship and first since 1982, when it was in Class AA.
Padua, which entered the match at 28-0 and ranked first in the nation by USA Today and fifth by MaxPreps, was seeking its fifth championship overall and third in four years. The Bruins were at state for the ninth time.
DeSales, which ended the season with a 15-match winning streak and finished 27-2, was making its eighth appearance at state.
“We knew it was going to be the toughest match of our lives,” Bella D’Amico said. “It all came down to our side. We didn’t focus on who we were playing against. It was all about us. We had to control our side. After that first set, I knew we’d respond.”
The match featured 23 ties and 12 lead changes.
Padua ended the first game on a 4-0 run after DeSales pulled within 21-19, but the Stallions went toe-to-toe thereafter with the Bruins, who had lost only nine games all season entering the final.
Boyle had six kills in the third game to help put the Stallions in control.
“Bella and I had a good connection. My energy was up,” Boyle said. “I wanted to score every time I touched the ball.”
Samantha Ott had 15 kills and 20 digs and Kate Mihacevich added 12 kills to lead Padua. Ella Mihacevich added nine kills and 39 assists and Katie Thompson had 22 digs for the Bruins.
“Something this team has done well all year is not putting the cart before the horse,” Pence said. “We’ve had some tough battles with each other and a lot of battles overall that have brought us together. A championship is shiny and great and awesome, but we did some gritty work through this year to get here.”