Durco continues to deliver, leading college volleyball team to championship

Karagyn Durco, a 2020 Rossford High School graduate, can now call herself a national champion, Most Valuable Player — and the nation’s Player of the Year.

Durco, a 5-foot-6 setter, helped lead the fifth-ranked Richard Bland College of William & Mary volleyball team to an NJCAA Division II national championship.

“It was really awesome and nerve wrecking at the same time because I’ve been at nationals before, and I’ve played in a match in nationals, but nothing was like the championship match,” Durco said. “I was really nervous, but I needed to use my nerves in a positive way.”

Durco doesn’t like to take all the credit for all the Statesmens’ success — she said that her teammates, coaches and the RBC community played a major role, too.

“It was competitive, but it was like a good competitive where everybody was involved. For our team, everybody plays a part whether they are on the court or on the bench, everyone is needed,” Durco said.

The Richard Bland Statesmen, located in Prince George County, Virginia, defeated No. 6 Scottsdale Community College, 26-24, 25-23, 22-25, 19-25, 16-14, on Nov. 19 in the national title match in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“It was definitely an incredible experience and a lot of hard work,” RBC coach Stephanie Champine said. “They bought in, they hard big goals at the beginning of the season, but they knew what they wanted to work for. It was just awesome to see how much growth there was as a team throughout the season, then to see them put it all on the court at the end.”

The Statesmen, 33-3, saw their sophomore server Durco named Tournament MVP, and last week she was named NJCAA D-II Player of the Year.

Durco had a school-record 62 assists and 17 digs in the championship match alone. She finished the season with 1,442 assists, 235 digs, 97 aces, and was even able to work in 32 kills and 23 blocks. Durco broke records at Richard Bland for assists and aces in a season in her first year.

“Karagyn is one in a million and the full package when it comes to a setter and who you want leading your team,” Champine said.

Durco is also an NJCAA Region 10 first team selection and Player of the Year, MVP of the regional tournament, an NJCAA D-II All-American, first team All-American by Volleyball magazine, and an AVCA first team All-American.

Durco knew what playing in a national championship tournament was like because she played for Champine and coach Shaun Dryden when they led Terra Tech to the NJCAA national tournament one year earlier.

When Champine and Dryden accepted the job at RBC, Durco went with them.

As a setter, Durco has a strategy that other setters should listen to because it makes sense — she gets to know her hitters and how they hit. She is the daughter of Rossford volleyball coach Joe Durco.

“I connect with all of my hitters very well, but all differently at the same time because no hitter is the same, because nobody jumps the same or has the same arm swing,” Durco said. “So, it’s cool to connect with everyone differently.”

Champine said Durco also “quarterbacks” the offense — a role typically held by setters.

“She’s always been a huge leader to the team. She is an assertive player,” Champine said. “She brings so much energy to the game. She’s a great teammate, picks up her teammates when they are down and does an all-around great job.

“She runs our offense. We guide her and direct on different plays we run at different times, but once she is out there in the match, she is the one running the offense,” Champine said. “She is telling the hitters what they are on. There are times even when ball is in play that she is even calling out a color and that references a play we are about to run.”

Durco’s skills go beyond her role as a setter, and that includes her ability to find the ball even when it seems unreachable.

“She has always criticized herself as undersized, but it’s just actually awesome to watch her play because she plays so much taller than what she is,” Champine said. “She has great location when it comes to setting, she does a great job mixing up the offense. She is able to reverse the flow very easily, she does a great job on defense, and one of the awesome things is she is so fast that she is capable of getting to almost any second ball on the court.’

Champine played prep volleyball at Bedford, Michigan, and then for Owens Community College coach Sonny Lewis. She was an All-American for Austin Peay State University and received Newcomer of the Year in 2008 and Conference Player of the Year in 2009.

Champine, who coached at Sylvania Southview, Toledo Start and then Terra Tech, has been coaching Durco since she was playing club ball at age 15.

When Champine and Dryden left for Virginia, Durco wanted to follow, knowing she would be the only out-of-state player on the team. Soon after joining the team, Durco was voted team captain.

“It was a great fit bringing her here for us, because she already knew the system and the culture that we wanted to build, so she was able to bring that to my team and kind of helped push the program into the right direction,” Champine said.

At Rossford, Durco was a four-year varsity player, set school records for assists with 2,162 and service aces record with 262.

She was a Northern Buckeye Conference first team selection and District 7 Player of the Year in 2019. It helped that her father was the coach and her family lived and breathed volleyball.

“He was a big mentor for me my entire life whether it was being my dad or being my coach,” Karagyn said. “He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had.”