CEDAR RAPIDS — Her volleyball career ended, Kiah Stokes went back to school to sign the most important paper in her life.
Stokes signed a national letter of intent to play women’s basketball at the University of Connecticut at 3:30 Wednesday afternoon, about two hours after Linn-Mar was swept by No. 3 Iowa City West in a Class 4A quarterfinal at the state volleyball tournament.
She orally committed with the two-time national-champion Huskies last week.
Linn-Mar closed its volleyball season at 18-19. Many of the losses came at Saturday tournament while Stokes was on recruiting visits.
“The visits were fun, but sometimes I felt that I let my (volleyball) team down by being away so much,” said Stokes, who collected 10 kills and four blocks against West. “I’m thankful that my coaches were so understanding and supportive.”
The Lions were up and down all season. They lost eight of their final nine regular-season matches, but knocked off No. 4 Bettendorf in the regional final to advance to state for the second straight year.
“I knew this was going to be a challenging year,” said Lions Coach Rob Justis. “With Kiah gone a lot of weekends, we knew that a consistent lineup was something we just weren’t going to have.
“After we were eliminated from the conference race, we really started focusing on the postseason.”
Stokes, who said she feels “really relieved” with her college decision behind her, plans to join the basketball squad at practice on Monday.
Strength in numbers
For the second straight year, three-fourths of the 4A semifinal field will be card-carrying members of the Mississippi Valley Conference.
Iowa City West, No. 5 Cedar Rapids Kennedy and No. 6 Cedar Rapids Xavier advanced, along with No. 1 Ankeny, the two-time defending champion.
“Our conference is so strong,” said Kennedy Coach Michelle Goodall. “It really helps us prepare for this time of the season. I think there is more parity in the MVC than there has been. It’s a nice benefit to be part of this conference.”
The MVC is guaranteed a finalist. Kennedy meets West in a semifinal at 1:30 Friday afternoon. Xavier faces Ankeny at noon.
Since the tournament expanded to four classes, the MVC has won two championships while the Central Iowa Metro League has taken five.