CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s green, Coach. Forest green.
No. 9 Linn-Mar endured five games and two hours — and survived two match points — to outlast No. 5 Iowa City High in a Class 4A regional-final volleyball match last night at Prairie High School.
Scores were 25-27, 25-13, 21-25, 25-15 and 18-16.
The Lions (26-14) earned their first trip to the state tournament. They’ll face No. 2 Iowa City West (37-2) in a quarterfinal at 2:15 p.m. next Wednesday.
“I’m really, really proud,” said Lions Coach Rob Justis, clutching the state-tournament banner. “We have a lot of these from other sports in our gym. I didn’t even know what color it was for volleyball.”
It’s green, Coach. Forest green.
Kiah Stokes collected 32 kills and Chelsea Burkle added 22 — including a match-ending dink — for the winners. But it was two kills by Katie Bazan that fueled the Lions’ late rally.
“They were (defending on) Kiah a lot, so I figured I’d go outside to Katie,” said Linn-Mar setter Morgan Rushford. “That got it done.”
Justis said, “The kids know that (Stokes and Burkle) are going to get most of the sets. But they need to be ready to put the ball down when the opportunity comes. Katie made some big, clutch plays.”
City High (30-9) had a 14-12 advantage in Game 5 but couldn’t seal it.
Stokes’ kill erased one match point and when Brittany Nelson’s attack went long the Lions had new life.
“There was a lot of not-to-lose (play) by us,” said City Coach Craig Pitcher. “We had a chance; we just weren’t able to capitalize.”
Kills by Bazan gave the Lions leads of 15-14 and 17-16, then Burkle’s offspeed tip sent the Lions into euphoria.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Stokes said. “Even when we were behind, we wanted to stay aggressive.”
The final set consisted of four surges. City High went ahead 4-1, then Linn-Mar countered to take an 11-8 lead. The Little Hawks got to the doorstep at 14-12, then the Lions locked them out at the end.
Stokes and Burkle combined for 54 of the Lions’ 63 kills.
Nelson finished with 26 for City High, and Erin Muir collected 52 assists.
Basketball practice begins next week, and Stokes is among a handful of Linn-Mar players still thinking volleyball.
“Sorry about your practice schedule,” Justis said when congratulated by basketball coach Mike Brandt.
But probably not that sorry.