PELLA — Central College capped one of the most dominant runs in NCAA Division III volleyball history 20 years ago this month.
On Dec. 2, 2000, before a raucous sellout crowd at P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium, the Dutch captured their third straight national title with a 15-10, 18-16, 15-3 decision over the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Central had defeated Washington University of St. Louis (Mo.) in the semifinals the previous night. Central roared through the season with a 40-2 mark. Only one of the squad’s 40 wins was even extended to five sets. The Dutch were a combined 118-4 over the three championship seasons.
Two all-America honorees from that squad, setter Angie Nielsen Sears ’02 and middle hitter Candace Wilson DuRegger ’01, the Division III player of the year, recently looked back at that season and their time at Central in a joint interview. Sears now lives in Bellevue, Nebraska while DuRegger is in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Full interview: https://youtu.be/eyUj_lhlyDM
The Dutch had graduated two-time national player of the year Abbie Brown Sogard ’00, but DuRegger said the 2000 squad was still a veteran group.
“You had that core group of people where you just knew each other, you knew each other’s strengths,” she said. “You had a lot of unspoken communication. And, as you get older you realize, we all really liked each other. I truly loved every single person on that team.”
Sears, also a CoSIDA Academic All-American as well as a three-time all-America honoree, holds all of Central’s assists records and racked up 5,828 for her career, an average of 11.83 per set. She said she savored the ride.
“It was so fun,” she said. “My girls, playing sports sometimes, I’m so anxious for them to have as much fun as I had. Because to me, sports without fun—what’s the point? We just had a blast.”
Walking onto the floor and seeing the sellout crowd remains vivid in their memory banks.
“That was just surreal,” DuRegger said. “It was packed. Even outside in the hallways, people were standing there and watching. And the sound of that crowd was just amazing.”
DuRegger hit a sizzling .425 in 1999 and .398 for her career, with a school career record 2,008 kills as a three-time all-America honoree. She said she remains in touch with her former teammates.
“Those relationships are still intact,” she said. “Even though our lives have separated and changed, it’s still such a joy. There’s just something to having those years of playing together and having so much life together that, 20 years out, it’s pretty special.”
It was unique, Sears said.
“I’m so eager for my kids to experience something even close to what I got to experience at Central,” she said.