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No Losing in Sight for Central

August 31, 2000

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Sooner or later, it will happen. It’s unavoidable.

Some day, somewhere, Central will lose a volleyball match.

It hasn’t happened in nearly two years, but coach Megan Clayberg knows that time will come, as surely as she knows that night follows day.

To be sure, it will be disappointing. But crushing? Clayberg doesn’t think so because even with two consecutive national championships and 59 straight victories, her approach has never been about winning.

``We talk about getting better,″ Clayberg said. ``So if we lose, it could be the same talk they heard when we haven’t played well and won. The hard part probably will be if we play really well and don’t win. What do you say then? It’s just like, well, they were better.″

No one has been better than Central for a long time. Central’s last loss was UC San Diego on Oct. 16, 1998. The Dutch won the NCAA Division III championship that year and they repeated last season while going 41-0 and running their winning streak to 59.

That ties the all-division winning streak set by Washington University of St. Louis in 1991, ’92 and ’93. Central will break the record if it beats Gustavus Aldophus in the first round of the Central Invitational on Friday night. And look who’ll be waiting to play the Dutch in the second game. Yep, Washington.

Washington had asked to play Central in the first game so it would get first crack at ending the streak, but Clayberg declined. She felt too much was being made of the streak already and didn’t want to add to it.

``We haven’t done anything yet this year,″ she said. ``It’s a clean slate across the board. We need to prove ourselves all over again. We set our goals high. We have a goal of winning the national title, but that’s not even what we’re talking about now. There are too many small stepping stones to get to that point.

``One of them was to have a successful preseason and they did work hard. We’re on the right pace, on the right track to get to that point.″

Central returns five of its six starters, including first-team All-Americans Candace Wilson and Angie Nielsen. But the one loss was huge: two-time national player of the year Abbie Brown.

Brown had a presence about her that inspired confidence in her teammates. Someone else has to fill that role now and Wilson, a 6-foot-1 senior from Britt, is the logical choice.

Wilson, however, has not been on the court much recently. She studied in London last winter and spring and spent a month in Mongolia this summer. But what she lost in her conditioning, she made up for in other ways, Clayberg said.

``She has really grown personally,″ the Central coach said. ``She’s just glowing in confidence and is carrying that onto the floor. She may not be in great physical condition, but we’ll get her to where she needs to be. She’s doing great.″

Nielsen also was gone over the summer, spending six weeks on a mission in Kenya. Another veteran, Steph Gerdes, was in Guatemala for six weeks.

``It was such a great experience for them to draw from,″ Clayberg said. ``It just really puts things in perspective. And when you keep it in perspective, you don’t get all wrung out about the wins and the records and the titles.″

Or, Clayberg hopes, about that loss when it comes.

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