By John Crumpacker
From now until the start of the 2016 West Coast Conference Basketball Championships, WCC columnist John Crumpacker will be profiling the WCC Hall of Honor Class of 2016. For Friday, Crumpacker examines the remarkable career of a BYU volleyball legend who epitomizes "student-athlete".
Despite her glittering accomplishments as a volleyball player at BYU and the successful engineering career she’s crafted, Dylann (pronounced “Dye-lan’’) Ceriani (nee Duncan) is extremely self-effacing when it comes to her impending induction into the WCC’s 2016 Hall of Honor class.
“I would prefer it to be somebody else,’’ she said. “It doesn’t feel like I’m anybody special. I happened to have a great college team, a great situation and I have a great job.’’
Check, check and check.
From 1985-88 as a middle hitter for the Cougars, Ceriani achieved records that still stand. She set an NCAA career record of 2,188 kills and holds five BYU career marks. She was a two-time All-American in ’87-88 and a three-time academic All-American from ’86-88. Ceriani graduated with a degree in electrical and computer engineering in ’89 and later earned a master’s in mechanical engineering from UC Berkeley in 1996.
“You don’t realize how awesome it is until you’re done and you try to wish your kid has the same experience,’’ she said. “I have a daughter at Tennessee-Martin right now. She has a terrible coach and the team is falling apart. At BYU, it was like Happy Valley. We had great chemistry. It was one of the best times of my life.’’
By the time Ceriani left BYU, she was the most decorated student-athlete in school history. In addition to her academic All-American honors, she was a recipient of the NCAA Top 6 Award and earned an NCAA postgraduate scholarship. With a resume like that, Ceriani was inducted into three separate halls of fame – the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame, the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame and the Utah Hall of Fame.
In 2013, she was one of six former student-athletes to receive the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award.
Imagine what she could have done had she applied herself! (Sarcasm alert.)
Because of various rules changes to the game, Ceriani’s NCAA mark for kills figures to stand for some time, prompting her to say, ever self-effacing, “There’s no way I could have gotten that as a middle hitter without awesome passes and defense. It had to do with the team I was on. It’s an intense position because you have to fake out the other team’s middle hitter into thinking you’re going to hit when you’re not. A successful middle hitter will draw the block and allow others to hit.’’
From BYU, Ceriani played on the U.S. national team for two years and spent a year playing professionally in Switzerland.
Of her time on the national team, she said, “It was great. It got me to San Diego (the team’s training base). I loved it down here and didn’t leave.’’
These days, Ceriani and her husband Geoff live in San Diego with their five children, four daughters and a son, while she commutes to nearby Vista for her job at Symbient Product Development. She’s a principal engineer in product development with eight patents to her credit, with two pending, in biomechanical engineering.
“Any time you develop a new product, the company tries to protect it so other companies can’t copy it,’’ Ceriani said.
She works in Symbient’s medical product development department, where some of her work includes orthopedic knee braces, medical diagnostic disposables, surgical scalpels and a radio isotope for cancer screening.
As it turns out, Ceriani’s childhood presaged her career.
“When I was a kid I was always taking stuff apart to see how they worked, so my mom steered me toward engineering because there weren’t many women in the field and I would be in demand,’’ she said.
To that, she surely says, “Thanks, mom.’’
Ceriani’s three oldest children followed her into sports. Son Duncan plays club volleyball at San Diego State, daughter Lael is a volleyball player at Tennessee-Martin and daughter Cassidy is a senior in high school and a center on the basketball team. Her two youngest children are daughters Piper, a sophomore in high school, and Scout, in middle school.
Most if not all of the clan, along with Ceriani’s mother, father and sister, will be in Las Vegas to see her receive an honor the recipient wishes would go to someone else. Good thing she did not have a vote on the matter.
John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards.