Liz Renken entered her junior season for the DeSales girls lacrosse team unsure of her role as the Stallions sought their second Division II state championship in four years.

Coach Joe Finotti might have had a better idea of where Renken fit in last year before she did.

"You could just sense with her that her level of confidence grew from sophomore to junior year and you could tell in the preseason last year that she was going to have a breakout year just based off her confidence in herself," Finotti said. "Within the first five games, she was stepping up and being that third (big scorer). We had pretty much a three-headed scoring machine."

Renken finished with 60 goals for the eventual state champions, third on the team behind a pair of 2019 graduates in Sophia Finotti (98) and Grace Lensmire (62), and anticipated being the Stallions' go-to scorer this year as a senior before the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Renken was listed as a midfielder on this year's roster but expected a lot of flexibility within that position.

"We were looking at moving me to different places around the field to best help me and help the team," said Renken, a Colorado Mesa recruit. "Feeding (passing) has been a big thing for me, too. We've been working on that since last year."

Finotti recalled Renken's four-goal performance in the fourth game of last season, a 15-6 win over Dublin Coffman, as an early indicator of how the rest of the season would transpire. She had a career-high six goals in an 18-8 win over Watterson nine days later and six more in a 12-11 overtime win over Columbus Academy two weeks after that.

Arguably Renken's most important game came in a state semifinal against Cincinnati Mariemont, when she posted five goals in a 13-11 win. Finotti scored twice but was face-guarded for most of the game and knocked to the ground several times.

Three days later, DeSales -- which had lost in state semifinals each of the previous two seasons -- finished a 21-1 season with an 11-3 win over Chagrin Falls in the state final.

"Mariemont was a huge game for her. I sensed that she knew she was able to put the team on her shoulders," coach Finotti said. "Mariemont was taking Sophia out. We still had Liz and the whole team just believed in her."

Coach Finotti said Renken, who finished with 88 career goals, resembled both Sophia Finotti and Lensmire on the field.

"Sophia was more of a power player and Grace was more of a finesse player. Liz is a combination of those two skill sets," he said. "This year in preseason conditioning, she was a great team leader. She was there, whether it was to encourage her teammates, push her teammates, get on them (in order) to push harder, she really stood out in the fall and in the winter. She took the definition of what being a team captain is to heart. She's one of the best I've ever had."

According to coach Finotti, Renken would have been one of four players in his nine seasons to have started every game of her career if she remained healthy this year. The others were 2013 graduate Paige Plesich, 2014 graduate Ali Cargin and his daughter, Sophia.

"I (was) excited for this season, to see what we could do," Renken said. "We only (had) three seniors so we needed as much help with leadership as we could get, so a lot was going to fall on everybody."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

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