CHAMPAIGN -- Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School senior Katelyn Riffle signed her letter of intent to continue her volleyball career at Parkland College on Friday.
She will join a Cobras squad that has won the NJCAA Division II national championship in each of the past two years and played in the national title match in each of the past four seasons.
"I'm really excited to continue at Parkland. I'm really happy to be a part of that team, and hopefully, we'll win the national title for the third year in a row," Riffle said.
The two national championships were won under head coach Cliff Hastings, a 1993 PBL graduate who has coached at Parkland College for eight years.
"I feel like it's a homey feel since since he's from Paxton, so I feel like I can relate to him really well," Riffle said. "He's easy to approach, so I have a good relationship with him."
Riffle visited Parkland College about a month ago to meet and converse with Hastings and to get a tour of the campus.
"I was really interested," Riffle said.
Riffle returned to Parkland for an open house on Friday, March 10, to meet with professors. Riffle is planning to major in criminal justice.
"They have very good programs," Riffle said. "It was really cool to get that experience."
Riffle also considered Indiana Wesleyan and Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, but said that Parkland's half-hour distance from Paxton helped set the school apart.
"I wasn't so sure about Indiana Wesleyan just because it was out of state. I was really interested in Carl Sandburg, but it's two-and-a-half hours away," Riffle said. "I feel like I'd get a better experience at Parkland playing volleyball and being closer to home, so family and friends can come see me play."
Riffle will not be the only PBL graduate to have played at Parkland College.
The latest Panther to play for the Cobras was Kailey Kleinert, a 2014 PBL graduate who had a team-high eight blocks for Parkland in the national title match in 2015.
After her two years with the Cobras, Kleinert transferred to the University of Indianapolis, where she is on the volleyball team. Riffle said he is hoping for a similar future.
"I'm hoping to continue toward a four-year college," Riffle said. "I don't know where yet, so I'm just going to see where Parkland takes me."
At PBL Junior High School, Riffle was part of the first class to win regional championships at both the seventh- and eighth-grade levels with titles in 2012 and 2013.
In her senior year at high school, Riffle was selected to the all-Sangamon Valley Conference first team. She said she will miss playing for PBL.
"I'm going to miss my friends," Riffle said. "I'm going to miss just the overall environment of high school. I'm going to miss it a lot."