MARION - As the prep volleyball season nears the midway point, Cedar Rapids Xavier identified a vital ingredient if the Saints are to retain their No. 1 ranking in Class 4A.
Now is the time to turn up the defense.
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CEDAR RAPIDS — From the uniform and white golf cap to the dark-rimmed glasses, Cedar Rapids Washington’s Connor Neighbors and Alex Slattery sport a similar look.
Their games are just as similar.
The Warrior leaders have produced nearly identical numbers, continuing a trend from the previous two seasons. It shouldn’t come as a surprise from a duo who shared Mississippi Valley Conference Valley Division Athlete of the Year honors last season.
Neighbors and Slattery are within a stroke of each other through the first three rounds this season. Neighbors, a junior, averages 74.33 per 18 with a combined adjusted average of 37.38. Slattery, a senior, comes in at 75.33 and 37.88.
“They’re very tight,” Cedar Rapids Washington Coach Dennis Goettel said. “They probably won’t admit it but I think they compete against each other and that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing to have.”
Last season, they had the same combined adjusted average (37.85) and separated by one-tenth of a point in 2015. Their 18-hole averages were about a half-stroke apart the last two years.
Both shot 75 at Hunters Ridge, tying for the third-lowest score at the Linn-Mar Invitational. Neighbors edged Slattery by a stroke for third at the Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet to open the season. Each had top-10 finishes at Washington’s Warrior Invitational last week at Amana Colonies Golf Course.
“He’s playing very steady,” Goettel said after Neighbors placed fourth with 74.
Goettel said they are good friends and share a passion for the game. When you find one at the course, it is a safe bet the other is near.
“They get along great,” Goettel said. “They’re together a lot.”
SAINTS ATOP MISSISSIPPI DIVISION
Cedar Rapids Xavier leads the Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division in scoring average after placing fourth at Johnston’s Dragon Invitational at Jester Park Golf Course in Granger on Wednesday. The Saints average 316.25 per 18 holes.
Xavier has earned top-six finishes in each meet this season, including runner-up to division foe Linn-Mar at the MVC Super Meet. The Saints improved to 33-15 with a 313 team score, winning a tiebreaker with Ames and Southeast Polk thanks to a better fifth score,
“I was kind of pleased,” said Xavier Coach Tim O’Brien, noting Hunter Hargrave’s 85 in his first varsity meet was the deciding criteria. “There were a couple meets where we needed a fifth score to break a tie and we failed to do it. That was a positive for us.”
O’Brien said he is encouraged by the strides they have made to solidify the lineup. Seniors Brad Karpick and Ryan Keating lead the way. Keating was 10th with 76. Karpick was two shots back. Nile Recker shot 79 and is third on the team with an 80.0 average. O’Brien said the leaders have a chance to get better as the season progresses.
“They have hit the ball well,” O’Brien said. “They have been steady so far this season. They’ve been rock solid.”
Karpick was MVC Mississippi Division Mississippi Athlete of the Year. He has been consistent, starting Wednesday with an average of 76.0.
“Brad’s shot every round in the 70s,” O’Brien said. “We’ve played some pretty good courses. He’s done a nice job there.”
Cedar Rapids Kennedy sophomore Brock Barnhart has decided where he wants to continue his golfing career. According to Barnhart’s father, Brian, the Cougars’ leading scorer has verbally committed to play at Iowa State University.
Barnhart was the Class 4A state runner-up a year ago as a freshman. He earned medalist honors at Johnston’s Dragon Invitational on Wednesday, shooting 2-under 70 at Jester Park Golf Course in Granger. The round moved him into the Metro lead with an 18-hole average of 74.0.
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