Wednesday, August 31, 2016
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Metro Sports Report

Saints spike No. 14 J-Hawks, 3-0

The Xavier Saints have a talented volleyball team that appears very capable of reaching the state tournament in downtown Cedar Rapids this November.

That was obvious Tuesday night when the Saints whipped Jefferson, 25-18, 25-20, 25-21, in a Mississippi Valley Conference match at the Jefferson gym.

The Saints, who are ranked No. 12 in Class 4A, have gotten off to an impressive start this season, with two victories over ranked Class 5A opponents. First it was 15th-ranked Iowa City High last week, now it's 14th-ranked Jefferson this week.

Both matches were on the road, and it's a road that could lead to the U.S. Cellular Center for the state meet.

"One of our main goals is definitely to make it to state," junior Charlotte Richards remarked. "And not only make it to state, but try to make it to the championship.

"The team is really coming together this year," she said. "I think we're going to be really strong."

Xavier finished with a 15-22 record last season and showed promise, but it looks like the Saints are ready to make a big jump under new head coach Austin Filer, who previously was an assistant coach at Mount Mercy University.

Filer won seven championships during his professional volleyball career and the Saints say he's added a new ingredient to the team this season.


MSR covering Iowa football this year

If you've followed my sportswriting career here in Cedar Rapids, you know that I covered the University of Iowa football team for 10 years as the primary beat reporter for The Gazette.

Those 10 years, from 1989 through 1998, coincided with Hayden Fry's final 10 years with the Hawkeyes and included trips to the Rose Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Alamo Bowl (twice) and Sun Bowl (twice).

During the midst of all that, I was honored to be named the Iowa Sportswriter of the Year in 1995 by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, a handsome award that sits next to the desk in my office.

I offer that information with pride and humility, but also as a prelude to the announcement that I'll be covering the Iowa football team again this season after an 18-year absence.

As some of you know, I was named the new sports director at KMRY radio earlier this summer to succeed Bob Brooks following his passing in June. In addition to handling the daily shows at 4:50 p.m. and 5:50 p.m. Monday through Friday, my bosses at KMRY have asked me to assume Brooksie's old role as the host of a 10-minute show on Sundays that will re-cap Iowa's football game from the day before.

The football show on KMRY will begin this Sunday at noon and will run throughout the season, with interviews, observations and news about the Hawkeyes.


Wilson sets record as Saints top Regals

All that extra eating and weightlifting paid off handsomely for Maliki Wilson and the Xavier Saints Friday night.

Wilson rambled for a school-record 293 yards and scored three long touchdowns as the Saints trimmed Iowa City Regina, 35-26, in a battle of Catholic school powers at Saints Field in the season opener.

Wilson snapped the old school mark of 271 yards rushing set by Brendan Miller against Linn-Mar in 2013 and his total was the sixth-best in Metro history. And many of Wilson's yards came in big chunks with touchdown jaunts of 68, 31 and 62 yards.

The 68-yard touchdown came on his first carry of the night and the 62-yard touchdown came on his very last attempt to secure the victory with just 49.5 seconds left and the Saints clinging to a 28-26 lead.

Wilson thanked all of his blockers for doing the dirty work up front.

"Man, if you watched the first play over and over again, nobody touched me," he said. "It felt good."

Wilson had to leave the game late in the third quarter with painful leg cramps following a 21-yard run, but he shook it off and got back on the field in the fourth quarter to inflict more damage on Regina.

"The trainers helped me on the sideline. And then the Powerade," he said about his quick recovery.


Wilson packing bigger punch for Saints

Maliki Wilson used his great quickness and agility to rush for 1,273 yards as a 160-pound scatback for the Xavier Saints last season.

Imagine what he might do this year as a 200-pound tailback with more power and even more speed.

"I feel a little faster than last year. I worked hard on that," Wilson said before practice Tuesday.

"I'll be able to hit a lot harder this year. The defense will have a little tougher time trying to handle the weight with it, too."

Wilson was not boasting. He never has, never will. But he's confident heading into the big showdown with Iowa City Regina in the season opener at Saints Field Friday night.

The kickoff is scheduled with 7 p.m. with no preliminary game.

Wilson said he feels a lot stronger this season. And even though he gained about 40 pounds in less than a year, there does not appear to be an ounce of fat on him.

"I totally worked on the weightlifting part," he said. "It should all work out pretty good."


No. 8 Eagles spike Grand View JV

The Kirkwood Eagles did not look like the No. 8 college volleyball team in the country Wednesday night when they dropped the opening set to the Grand View junior varsity, but there was nothing to worry about.

The eighth-ranked Eagles rebounded for a 23-25, 25-14, 25-12, 25-15 victory in the season opener at Johnson Hall.

"We bounced back from that first set really well," said Coach Jill Williams, who liked the way her team performed in the last three sets.

Kirkwood returns five starters from a team that finished seventh at the NJCAA Division II national tournament last year. Williams also brought in eight new freshmen, giving the Eagles a nice blend of youth and experience.

"I do see good things for this group," she said. "I like the chemistry of the team. It's a good mix of personalities. There's a lot of athleticism."

Williams called a timeout after the Eagles fell behind, 9-4, in the first set. They never fully recovered in the opening game, but they got better as the night went along.


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