(Photo by BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah – Former standout BYU women’s volleyball middle blocker Nina Puikkonen Mortensen was inducted into the 2015 class of the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame Thursday night.
Elaine Michaelis, her former BYU coach, introduced Puikkonen Mortensen before the introduction ceremony.
"It's my pleasure to present Nina Puikkonen Mortensen for induction into the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame," MIchaelis said. "Nina was one of those people who was quiet, unassuming - just doing her job. She was one of the best middle blockers we've ever had at running the slide and being able to put the ball away down the line. She was also, as the stats show, a wonderful blocker. Her records, although have probably been passed by now, at the time were outstanding nationally as well as for BYU. It's my privelege to present her for this induction."
Puikkonen Mortensen is one of the more decorated female athletes in BYU history. She began her remarkable career at BYU as a redshirt freshman in 1998. In her first season as a Cougar she led the nation in blocking with an average of 2.17 blocks per set, setting a BYU record. Puikkonen Mortensen helped lead BYU to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. At the conclusion of the year, she named the 1998 Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and to the Volleyball Magazine Freshman All-American Team.
As a sophomore in 1999, Puikkonen Mortensen led BYU to a 28-5 overall record, a conference championship and a Sweet 16 appearance in BYU’s first season as a member of the Mountain West Conference. She followed her junior season with an invite to play on the A-2 U.S. Women’s National Team, one of just 14 players throughout the country to make the team.
Despite being hampered by a leg injury throughout her senior season, Puikkonen Mortensen capped off her time as a Cougar by averaging a conference-best 4.24 kills per game. In Puikkonen Mortensen’s remarkable BYU career, she received All-American accolades in 1998, 1999 and 2000, in addition to being named a four-time all-conference selection. She ended her time as a Cougar as the all-time leader at BYU in blocks per game (1.87) and finished No. 1 in career hitting percentage (.349), No. 3 in kills per game (3.96), No. 4 in solo blocks (105) and top-10 in career digs (840).
Following her time at BYU, Puikkonen Mortensen went on to play with the U.S. National Team in 2002 before finishing the year playing professional volleyball in Finland. After taking gold in the top league, Puikkonen Mortensen began her coaching career as an assistant at Utah Valley State College (UVU) for two seasons. She retired from coaching after her stint at UVSC to raise her family.
Volleyball soon came calling again and in 2012 she joined the Utah Unity — a new professional women’s volleyball team sponsored by the Intermountain Volleyball Association — where she helped her team take fifth at nationals in her one season.
Puikkonen Mortensen graduated from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in zoology in 2002 and a master’s in exercise science in 2007. She and her husband Ryan have four children – Elina, Tyler, Maija and Jakob.