Parkland volleyball tournament

Parkland's bench cheers during a volleyball match Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019, at the college in Champaign.

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'I really do my best to treat each time like a gift'

CHAMPAIGN — It’s a tradition going on four years.

The Parkland volleyball team spends a chunk of the week before Thanksgiving in Charleston, W.Va. Not only competing for a national title — the top-seeded Cobras open the NJCAA Division II tournament on Thursday — but also exploring the city.

This year’s itinerary includes an escape room — safer than 2016’s forest hike.

“A twisted ankle and 37 degrees later, I decided to scrap that in future years,” two-time title-winning coach Cliff Hastings said. “My goal is to try to find consistency of an eating and homework schedule but with something unique or fun to do each day. ... With a posse of 26, it’s not always easy to find things that are cost-effective, yet fun for the team, but I think we do a little better each year.”