DeSales Roundup: Bar remains high for rebuilding Stallions softball team

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Senior catcher Kendall Gonya is the only returning player from 2019 for the DeSales softball team. Still, new coach Rick Conti said "the bar has been set very high and the expectations are always there."

Given that Rick Conti spent the past decade as the DeSales softball team’s junior varsity coach, had two daughters come through the program and graduated from the school 43 years ago, he’s excited to serve as head coach and acutely aware of his responsibility in maintaining the team’s tradition.

The Stallions also expect a competitive season both on the schedule and among themselves, with only one player back from 2019 in senior catcher Kendall Gonya.

“The bar has been set very high and the expectations are always there. When you look at the players who are now playing varsity, I have coached some of them ever since they were playing Stampede summer ball and now they have all matured into pretty good softball players,” Conti said. “Our players have made some big strides in recognizing what is expected of them from a conditioning standpoint along with the mental side of the game. We have some very hard working and determined players ready to step up.”

Conti succeeds Julie Barber, who coached DeSales from 2005-20 and led the team to six CCL championships, four Division II district titles and the state tournament in 2007.

Rounding out the senior class are Haley Bentley (P), Bre Callahan (OF) and Lauren Mitevski (OF).

Also vying for playing time are juniors Kaitlin Kovach (3B), Jessica Melvin (SS), Andrea Millenbaugh (OF), Alena Stewart (1B/SS), Maggie Valentine (2B) and Madison Wehrman (P/1B), sophomores Kennedy Hawk (OF), Kennedy Melvin (3B) and Lauren Orzechowski (SS) and freshmen Catie Miller (3B), Hunter Messmer (OF), AnMarie Trolle (INF) and Lucy Wills (OF).

Conti hoped the team would hit its stride early despite two quarantines during offseason workouts.

“Another (obstacle) that I think all programs will see on the field will be having newer players adapt to the speed of the game and understanding what it will take to compete at a higher level,” Conti said. “Our expectations at DeSales have never changed — work hard, hustle, play fast (and) give everything that you have.”

SOFTBALL

Coach: Rick Conti, first season

Next game: April 8 at Grove City

Key athletes: Haley Bentley, Bre Callahan, Kendall Gonya, Kaitlin Kovach and Lauren Mitevski

Tom Neubert is back for his 13th season as DeSales baseball coach. The Stallions will try to improve on their 2019 finish of 17-11 overall and 6-2 in the CCL.

Huzicka, Stewart among

baseball team’s leaders

Baseball coach Tom Neubert treated the Stallions’ scrimmages like spring training, not only in assessing his players’ talents but how he did so.

“I almost did a split squad with every scrimmage (because) all 17 guys had a chance to earn starting spots,” Neubert said, noting a practice common in Major League Baseball in order to get more players time on the field. “It’s going to take a couple weeks to see where everybody fits. How they handle their time on the field in game situations and how they deal with adversity is important at this point.”

Neubert, who is in his 13th season, called seniors Connor Huzicka (SS/2BP) and Matthew Stewart (OF/P/1B) the team’s top players offensively, defensively and on the mound. Classmate Aiden Cannon (SS/2B/P) also was on the 2019 team that went 17-11 overall and 6-2 in the CCL, tying Hartley and Watterson for the league title before losing to the Hawks in a Division II district semifinal.

Huzicka, an Olney Central recruit, batted .391 as a sophomore. He and Stewart had limited time on the mound, combining to throw 18 innings.

Fourteen of the Stallions’ 17 players have “good pitching arms,” Neubert said.

“I saw some summer games but they haven’t played in the program. Eight of our 17 on varsity are sophomores and freshmen, so it’s going to take us quite a while to figure out who our top guys really are,” Neubert said. “We have a really solid group and we’re just trying to figure things out.”

Other infielders include seniors Andrew Kegleswitch (P/OF/1B), Zach Quinlan (C/3B) and Drew Smith (2B/P/SS). Also vying for time in the outfield are juniors Ryan Gustafson and Christian Hopp and sophomores Luke Bailey, Nathan Hickey, Niko Kreuzer and Cedric Stewart.

BASEBALL

Coach: Tom Neubert, 13th season

Next game: April 9 vs. Buckeye Valley

Key athletes: Aiden Cannon, Connor Huzicka, Andrew Kegleswitch, Drew Smith and Matthew Stewart

Big hitters return

for volleyball team

The boys volleyball team returned four starters from 2019 in senior middle hitters Jude Agyapong and Jamie Momoh and juniors Michael Cavanaugh (outside hitter) and Sam Marchio (libero), something 12th-year coach Andy Feltz hopes leads to consistent success.

They were joined in the starting lineup to begin the season by senior Tony Swartz (right-side hitter) and sophomores Cameron Hoying (setter) and Camron White (outside hitter).

Cavanaugh and Swartz emerged as two of the Stallions’ most powerful hitters to start the year.

“They’re big athletes, they’re strong and they’ve spent some time in the weight room. Cavanaugh is a really seasoned player as a junior and Swartz hasn’t played a ton of volleyball but I think he’s really going to catch his stride the more he plays. He’s just a physical athlete,” Feltz said. “We have a lot of good size and a lot of skill. We don’t have a lot of team chemistry because we haven’t had a ton of time together, so that will take us a little time. I like the parts and pieces.”

Other varsity contributors include seniors Noah Garrick (defensive specialist), Nico Genovesi (right-side hitter), Casey Koller (outside hitter) and Andrew Tran (defensive specialist).

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

Coach: Andy Feltz, 12th season

Next match: April 8 vs. St. Charles

Key athletes: Jude Agyapong, Michael Cavanaugh, Sam Marchio, Jamie Momoh and Tony Swartz

Hockey coach

steps down

Darcy Cahill resigned in late March after four seasons as hockey coach, citing time commitments.

Cahill went 20-73-1-1 overall and 12-51-0-1 in the CHC, although the Stallions rebounded from last year’s 0-25 campaign to go 4-16 overall and 3-14 in the league this year.

Cahill said he is coaching youth hockey “seven days a week” and added that also coaching a high school team has become a challenge to fit into his schedule.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave