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Sacrifices well worth it for Sierras ACC-bound outfielder
Sierra High softball standout Iyana Hughes was joined by family, friends and school administrators for her signing to the University of Virginia Monday. Pictured are, clockwise from top left, Vice Principal Greg Leland, Assistant Principal Dan Beukelman, Head Coach Nick Olmo, Principal Steve Clark, Athletic Director Anthony Chapman, father Donald, sister Kayla and mother Aletriana. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

Iyana Hughes missed out on a lot of high school events because of softball commitments during her first three years at Sierra.

On the softball field, she doesn’t miss much.

The latest of her many achievements came Monday when she signed her letter of intent to play for the University of Virginia. Hughes was offered an athletic scholarship that covers about 90 percent of tuition costs.

“I missed a lot of high school dances, football games and birthday parties,” Hughes said minutes after making it official in the gym foyer. “But it was all worth it.”

A contingent of about 25 family members, friends, teammates, coaches and school administrators were present for the signing. Hughes was joined by her father Donald, mother Aletriana and sister Kayla as she put pen to paper, and each shared a heartfelt speech afterward.

Virginia of the Atlantic Coast Conference was just one of several NCAA programs to have serious interest in the lightning quick center fielder. Among the four-year universities she considered were Bethune Cookman, Marshall, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Fordham, Sonoma State and Sacramento State.

“I had options, but after doing my research Virginia just seemed like the best fit for me,” said Hughes, who aspires to be a lawyer. “It’s a good location and a great school education-wise. I made my official visit in October and attended a football game. The school is beautiful, and the team was very welcoming.”

Making the transition to college life on the East Coast a little more comfortable is that her travel-ball teammate Ariana Hawkins — an outstanding infielder for Valley Oak League rival Kimball High of Tracy — has also signed to play for Virginia.

The Cavaliers went 26-25 last spring and reached the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament. In Hughes they get a top-of-the-order type speed threat with gap power and a reliable outfielder.

“We can put Iyana in center field and there’s nothing to worry about,” Sierra varsity coach Nick Olmo said when addressing the small group.

Hughes earned All-VOL first-team honors last year and led Sierra in batting average (.475), runs scored (23) RBIs (14) and extra-base hits (11) in the regular season. She was also key in Sierra’s run to its first-ever league and Sac-Joaquin Section championships in 2011.

“A lot of my friends are rushing to get college applications right now, so it’s nice to have so much less to worry about,” Hughes said. “All I have to do is keep my grades up and I’m good.

“I do have one more season of softball left with Sierra, so hopefully we can win VOL, go back to sections and go out with a bang.”