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.
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MANCHESTER — Christi Imsland knew she had big shoes to fill.
Tom Fetter spent 26 years leading the West Delaware boys’ golf program, winning a Class 3A state title in 2014 and earning a state runner-up finish with an individual medalist last season.
Imsland has the Hawks back among the top 10 3A teams again and coached them to a victory against defending 1A state champion East Buchanan on Tuesday. West Delaware is ranked as high as seventh, owning a 317.25 18-hole average.
“It’s gone very well,” Imsland said. “We’ve had a learning curve. Our short game has given us fits, like everyone.”
West Delaware returned an experienced squad, including four starters from the 2016 state squad. She said the Hawks have pushed each other, vying for starting spots and positions.
“We have six good golfers,” Imsland said. “It’s been fun to see the competition when they are on the course.”
Senior Trent Shaw, who tied for 10th at the 2016 state meet, leads the team with a 75.25 18-hole average. Sophomore Gavin Soppe and freshman Brandon Larsen are next at 80.50. The Hawks have seven golfers who average 85 or better.
Shaw swept medalist honors for a three-meet stretch this season. The Hawks count on his low scores and his leadership.
“We count on him every single time,” Imsland said. “He has been a wealth of knowledge for our younger players.
Even though Imsland is trying to take notes and learn the area courses, few can match the resume that she brings to the West Delaware program. Imsland began playing at age 7. She was a three-time state champion for Eldora-New Providence (2001-03) and a record-setting Iowa State University golfer, serving as an assistant at University of Northern Iowa.
Imsland is in her first year as head coach and teacher in the school district.
“I think they have bought into what I’m doing with the program,” said Imsland, who has worked on course management and the short game this season. “In our first meeting, I asked what they needed from me to work on.
“We’ve continued to work on our weaknesses and to keep working on our strengths.”
Imsland is one of the few female coaches to lead a male program. Her accomplishments command respect and she said the players have been receptive to her.
“They know I have the knowledge,” Imsland said. “They know my background.”
Monday begins a rapid progression of big meets, beginning with a Wamac divisional meet. The conference meet and postseason are soon after it. The Hawks will look to get back to state.
“I’m looking forward to see what the kids can do,” Imsland said. “I’m excited.”
SOARING PRAIRIE HAWKS
Cedar Rapids Prairie’s girls’ golf team has produced top three finishes in as many meets in a matter of a week.
The Hawks finished second at the CRANDIC golf meet at Gardner Golf Course on April 19. They were one stroke back of champion Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
Prairie followed that showing by winning the Benton Community Invitational at Tara Hills Golf Club in Van Horne. Senior Peyton Staab earned medalist honors at Saturday’s meet.
The Hawks added a third-place finish at the Linn-Mar Invitational on Tuesday at Hunters Ridge. They finished behind the state’s best-scoring team Cedar Falls and runner-up Pleasant Valley.
The recent performances allowed Prairie to push its way into the top 10 of Class 5A in adjusted average (197.56) and 18-hole team average (384). The Hawks are fifth with a nine-hole average of 188.
“Overall we’re playing well as a team, with the seniors providing great leadership,” Prairie Coach Erik Columbus said. “They are doing a great job in practice, with more of an emphasis on short game and overall consistency.”
MVC HEATS UP
The Mississippi Valley Conference will begin three straight weeks of conference tournament play, determining the season’s all-conference performers.
The first of three conference competitions will be Monday. Cedar Rapids Xavier will host the MVC Super Meet at St. Andrew’s Golf Course. The Super Meet is the first of three rounds that decide all-MVC divisional teams.
Divisional meets will be held May 1 and 8. The Mississippi Division will play at Hunters Ridge and Twin Pines. The Valley Division will compete at Pheasant Ridge Golf Course in Cedar Falls and Ellis Golf Course.
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