Thanks -- I will likely try replacing the master cylinder first ($35 locally).
I found my old pics of the flywheel. It looked quite good after a light refinishing, and from experience my clutches have done well with such. So if not the master cylinder or defective materials, it's looking like driver error. That's bad news because they are needy, and are to keep this gift car longterm.
The clutch set was a LuK. Anyone had bad luck with Luk?