Former Cougars in the Pros

2006- Record Crowd Sees Big Upset
BYU Molten Classic, Provo, Utah (Sep. 1, 2006)
BYU over No. 4 Stanford 3-1 (17-30, 30-25, 30-25, 30-16)

A BYU women’s volleyball record 4,050 fans came to the Smith Fieldhouse hoping to see the Cougars beat No. 4 Stanford. They got what they came for as the eventual national runner-up went down in four with BYU winning 17-30, 30-25, 30-25 and 30-16 to open the Molten Classic.

After game one, it didn’t appear as though BYU was playing with such confidence. The two teams battled to a 13-13 tie before Stanford closed out the game with a 17-4 run.

BYU bounced back in game two by jumping out to a 4-0 lead. The Cougars never trailed in the game and were only tied once at 22 apiece. Game two also featured the play of the match as sophomore setter Amy Schlauder jumped up for an apparent set before dumping the ball behind her back and over the net to put BYU up 25-23. From there, BYU finished off the game on a 5-2 run. Game three was the most competitive of the night as the final margin of five points was the highest either team led throughout the game. Game four, however, was all BYU. Watson’s squad soared to a 15-1 lead and eventually won 30-16. The Cougars turned up the defensive intensity keeping Stanford from stringing more than three consecutive points in the game.

“A key factor for us is we dug a lot of balls,” BYU head coach Jason Watson said. “We created all these opportunities for us to score points, and that sustained the pressure we established earlier in the game. It was fun.”

The Cougars were led by juniors Chelsea Goodman (14 kills) and Erica Lott (20 kills). Goodman also recorded 18 digs for her second double-double of the season. The last time BYU beat an opponent as highly ranked as Stanford was the 2000 season when the Cougars defeated the nation’s No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 teams, including No. 1 Stanford.


2000- Cougars Conquer Top-Ranked Teams
BYU Mizuno Classic, Provo, Utah (Sep. 8-9, 2000)
BYU over No. 1 Stanford 3-1 (15-9, 13-15, 15-6, 15-8) BYU over No. 2 LBSU 3-2 (15-17, 12-15, 15-13, 15-1, 15-6)

The Cougars had a spectacular run at the 2000 BYU Mizuno Classic, defeating the nation’s top two teams on back-to-back nights to take home the crown.

Led by a balanced offensive attack and strong defense, the No. 17 BYU women’s volleyball team began the weekend with an upset of No. 1 Stanford 15-9, 13-15, 15-6, 15-8 in the Smith Fieldhouse. The Cougars finished the night with four players with 12 or more kills. Juniors Nina Puikkonen and Jackie Bundy led the way with 16 kills apiece. Puikkonen also led the Cougars with a .393 hitting percentage and a season-high 10 total blocks. It was the first win for the Cougars over the Cardinal since 1987.

The Cougar defense held Stanford to a .052 hitting percentage, and only junior Tara Conrad finished with double-digit kills with 14. Besides dishing out 56 assists on the night, BYU freshman setter Karina Puikkonen led the Cougars with 11 digs. The strong defense and balanced offense overcame poor serving by BYU. They finished with 20 service errors and only one service ace.

The magic continued on Saturday night as Nina Puikkonen led the Cougars to a 15-17, 12-15, 15-13, 15-1, 15-6 win over No. 2 Long Beach State, earning MVP honors. Puikkonen, the 1999 Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, finished the match by tying her career-high with 25 kills and setting a career high with four service aces. She also had a .537 hitting percentage and tied a season-high with 12 digs. While LBSU’s Cheryl Weaver showed why she is an All-American (14 kills, seven digs and eight blocks) Puikkonen proved her All-America credentials and led a BYU team that hit .318. Sophomore Sunny Tonga, also a member of the all-tournament team, recorded a career-high 21 kills with a .487 hitting percentage. Bundy, the other all-tournament selection for the Cougars, had 13 kills, nine digs and four blocks.

Despite leading 14-10 in game one, the Cougars dropped two tough games to start the match. But the Cougars won the next game 15-13 thanks to strong serving and better passing. The win gave BYU the momentum, and the Cougars overwhelmed Long Beach State the next game 15-1. That led to the 15-6 final in the fifth game that gave the Cougars their first victory over the 49ers since 1986.


2000- BYU breaks Rams for Title
MWC Championship, Fort Collins, Colo. (Nov. 18, 2000) No. 13 BYU over No. 4 CSU 3-2 (15-11, 8-15, 15-7, 9-15, 15-8)

In one of the most dramatic matches of the year, BYU ended Colorado State’s then-NCAA-best 44-match home winning streak, out-lasting the Rams in five games. The Cougars returned the blow the Rams dealt BYU in 1999 winning the Mountain West Conference Tournament on the host team’s home court. “Both teams played well – it was just a matter of who had the momentum at the right time to get the win,” BYU coach Elaine Michaelis said. “Colorado State is a great team. I give our team a lot of credit for coming in here and beating such a good team. We have now defeated a No. 1-, No. 2-, No. 3- and No. 4-ranked team this year.”

BYU junior Nina Puikkonen was named the MWC Tournament Most Valuable Player. The All-American middle blocker had a team-high 15 kills with 12 digs and eight blocks to lead the Cougars in the MWC title match. Teammate Sunny Tonga joined Puikkonen on the All-Tournament team, adding nine kills and a career-best 10 blocks.

Kalani Tonga didn’t make the All-Tournament team but she may have been the team’s MVP for the match. The junior outside hitter had one of her best performances of the year, recording a season-high 16 kills while hitting .306 with nine digs. Appropriately, the tournament’s MVP gave BYU the win with Puikkonen putting down her 53rd kill of the championship.


1998- Cougars Advance to Regional Final
1998 NCAA Tournament West Regional Semifinal, University Park, Penn. (Dec. 11, 1998) No. 7 BYU over No. 9 Pacific 3-1 (15-7, 15-5, 12-15, 16-14)

BYU’s eighth trip to the NCAA Regional Finals came in 1998 when the Cougars recorded a four-game win over No. 9 Pacific in the Regional Semifinal match. BYU dominated to start the match, winning game one 15-7 after leading by as many as 10 points on the strength of .348 hitting. Game two was more of the same as the Cougars jumped out to a 5-0 lead and never looked back enroute to a 15-5 win. Freshman Nina Puikkonen, who was named to the Central Regional All-Tournament Team, racked up a double-double in the first two games with 11 kills on 12 swings to go along with 10 digs.

Pacific came storming back in game three as a five-point run allowed the Tigers to take a 10-5 lead. BYU fought back with its own 5-0 spurt to tie things up at 10-10, but Pacific scored the last three points of the game to win 15-12. After hitting .380 through the first two games, the Cougars were held to just .116 hitting in the third stanza as the Tigers posted six blocks in the game.

With BYU all but tasting victory and the Tigers with their backs against the wall, game four was a battle from start to finish. Pacific managed to pull ahead 13-10, but the Cougars scored six of the last seven points, including three blocks from Puikkonen, to take the game 16-14 and book their ticket to the Regional Final. Helen Hjorth led BYU with 17 kills on the night while Puikkonen and Melissa Layton each recorded 16. Three Cougars also posted double-doubles as Puikkonen added 20 digs and eight blocks to her kill total, Hjorth tallied 11 digs and Korie Rogers, another Central Regional All-Tournament Team selection, posted 14 kills and 18 digs.


1998- BYU helps make NCAA History
1998 WAC Tournament Final, Las Vegas (Nov. 28, 1998) “Longest Match Ever” -- BYU lost to Hawai`i 2-3 (12-15, 19-21, 15-13, 18-16, 22-24)

BYU and Hawai`i played what both coaches considered one of the greatest women’s collegiate volleyball matches ever played, as the Rainbows outlasted the two-time Western Athletic Conference tournament defending champion Cougars. Hawai`i, 29-2, served for match point six times in the fourth game and seven times in the fifth game, but the Cougars, 28-3, forced the match to go an NCAA-record three hours and 38 minutes. The Rainbow Wahine took a commanding 2-0 lead to start the match, but the Cougars battled back, taking the next two games.

“Everyone I talked to that watched the championship said it was the best match they’d ever seen,” BYU coach Elaine Michaelis said. “Even though we lost, it was evenly played and very exciting.” Eleven WAC Tournament records were set and one tied. Korie Rogers tied the tourney record with 31 digs, adding 18 kills and 11 blocks for a triple-double. BYU had match-point attempts at 16-15, 17-16 and 22-21, but couldn’t hold serve. Hawai`i could’ve also put the match away at 18-17, 19-18, 20-19, 21-20 and finally won after two service points. A pair of “out of rotation” calls cost BYU dearly in the hotly contested second game. With the Cougars up 18-17, a penalty point was awarded to the Rainbows to even the score at 18-18. After sideouts were traded, the Cougars were again penalized, giving Hawai`i a 19-18 lead and setting up the 21-19 win. BYU’s Anna-Lena Smith was named the tournament’s top setter, joining Rogers and Nina Puikkonen, who also put up a triple-double (25 kills, 19 digs and 14 blocks) on the All-Tournament team.


1996- Streak continues with BYU upset
1996 WAC Tournament Final, Las Vegas, Nev. (Nov. 30, 1996)No. 25 BYU over No. 3 Hawai’i 3-2 (6-15, 15-11, 15-13, 16-18, 15-8)

After an uncharacteristic 2-8 start to the season, No. 25 BYU found itself riding a 23-match win streak into the WAC Championship match against No. 3 Hawai’i. Despite their underdog status, the Cougars recorded a five-game victory over the Rainbow Wahine to keep the streak alive and bring home the inaugural WAC Tournament title.

BYU was out-hit (.226-.221), out-dug (85-77) and out-blocked (21-15) by Hawai’i but won the statistics that counted on the scoreboard. Tournament MVP Gale Osborn Johnson led the Cougars with 27 kills and 20 digs while Amy Steele added 18 kills and seven blocks.

“I was pleased that we stayed focused and determined and stayed in there,” said head coach Elaine Michaelis, the 1996 District VII Coach of the Year. “This was a great showcase for WAC volleyball, and we were fortunate to have things fall our way at the right times.” There were several lead changes in the match that lasted two hours and 45 minutes with Hawai’i putting together the biggest rally after trailing 10-4 in game four to take an 18-16 win and force a fifth-game. But the Cougars’ determination won the day as they recorded a 15-8 game-five victory to complete the upset. BYU won two more matches in the NCAA Tournament to extend its win streak to 25 games before falling at No. 5 Hawai’i in the Regional Finals.


1993- Cougars punch ticket to Final Four
1993 NCAA Tournament West Regional Final, Los Angeles, Calif. (Dec. 11, 1993) BYU over No. 1 UCLA 3-0 (16-14, 17-15, 15-11)

Shocking. Upset. Stunning. Many words could describe BYU’s road to the Final Four in 1993; a road which was paved with a sealing win over top-ranked UCLA. For BYU coach Elaine Michaelis and her Cougar program it was long overdue. Behind a relentless defense and aggressive offense, setter Charlene Fiaputa dished out an eye-popping 65 assists in the sweep.

“This was extra special that we beat a very good UCLA team to get to the Final Four,” Michaelis said. “UCLA was a very strong and talented opponent. Too bad this match wasn’t for the national championship.”

Unity was a word to describe BYU’s 1993 squad, which reeled off a 25-match win streak earlier in the season. The first game was a classic example of how the Cougars played throughout the season. UCLA, behind a supportive home crowd, took an early 3-0 lead, and extended it to lead 6-2. Unfazed, the Cougars set off on a 5-0 run, taking their first lead and jolting the Bruins. That set the tone for the match, and the energized BYU team continued to score points when it needed them. Gale Osborn ended the match by putting down a cross-court kill to propel BYU past UCLA and into the Final Four.


1996- All in a Day's Work for BYU
UCLA Invitational Championship, Los Angeles (Oct. 11, 1986) No. 7 BYU over No. 2 Pacific 3-2 (15-8, 12-15, 7-15, 16-14, 18-16) No. 7 BYU over No. 4 Hawai`i 3-2 (15-12, 12-15, 15-9, 8-15, 15-10)

In the midst of its most successful season in the 1980s, BYU captured the UCLA National Invitational crown, going 6-0 in the tournament with wins over No. 11 UC-Santa Barbara, No. 2 Pacific and No. 4 Hawai`i. Sixteen teams were invited to the 19th annual tournament, including four of the top five teams in the nation. With tournament Most Valuable Player Mariliisa Salmi leading the way, BYU gutted out two five-game roller coaster wins over the Tigers and the Rainbow Wahine.

The Cougars dominated on both sides of the ball in the first match of the day, recording 96 kills against Pacific, which was the second-best mark in school history at that time and is still tied for the third-best mark. Sophomore middle blocker, Dylann Duncan, who was named to the All-Tournament Team along with senior outside hitter Sari Virtanen, put up 14 blocks, the third-most by any Cougar to date, while stifling the Tiger attack.

Cougar Mariliisa Salmi was spectacular in the final match, dishing out 53 assists to go with 17 digs and nine kills against Hawai’i. The Cougars were also buoyed by sophomore outside hitter Jill Sanders, who proved to be their most effective attacker with 19 kills on a team-high .325 hitting. Sanders also chipped in with a match-high 22 digs to go with four blocks. What paved the way for the Cougars was their serving, as they chalked up 11 aces – four from Diane Campbell – while forcing the Rainbow Wahine into 13 receiving errors.

The tournament title propelled BYU up to No. 3 in the following week’s coach’s poll, and two weeks later, the Cougars claimed the No. 1 spot in the poll for the first time in their history. BYU would hold onto the No. 1 ranking through the end of the season.


1977- Final Four or bust
1977 AIAW National Quarterfinal, Provo, Utah (Dec. 9, 1977) BYU over Long Beach State 3-1 (10-15, 15-11, 15-4, 15-6)

Playing their sixth match in two days, the Cougars faced off against Long Beach State for the right to advance to the AIAW National Semifinals, winning 10-15, 15-11, 15-4, 15-6 to improve to 34-3 overall on the season.

BYU hit an astounding .467 in the match while recording 64 kills. Karen Curtis paced the Cougars with 21 kills, marking the third time that year she topped the 20-kill mark. Annette Cottle also posted double-digit kills with 14 while adding a team-leading 17 digs, her fourth double-double of the season. Both Curtis and Cottle received All-America accolades at the end of the year, becoming BYU’s first such honorees.

The Cougars’ defensive intensity matched their offensive firepower with 50 digs and 33 blocks. Debbie Freestone recorded a season-high 10 blocks in the match while Tina Gunn added seven and Terrie Willison posted six. Kathy White tallied BYU’s third double-double of the night with 25 assists and 10 digs.


1972- Ticket to the Title Tilt
1972 AIAW National Semifinal, Provo, Utah (Feb. 3, 1973) BYU over UCLA 2-1 (3-15, 14-8, 14-12)

For the first time in its history BYU was selected to host the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) national volleyball championship. The Cougars advanced to the fourth AIAW national championship by winning their region (ICCWPE Intermountain). BYU swept through round-robin play with a 5-0 record, only dropping one of 11 games. In the championship bracket BYU dispatched UC-Santa Barbara (15-10, 15-12) to set the table for a national championship-caliber showdown. In its first-ever meeting against UCLA, BYU faced a daunting challenge. The Bruins were the defending national champions, finished second to Long Beach State in the strongest region in the country and were the No. 2-seeded team in the tournament.

Early on it looked bleak for a seemingly overwhelmed Cougar squad, as they fell 15-3 in the first game. The odds were stacked up against a BYU team seeded No. 7 and unable to compete and tuneup against the upper echelon teams in California during the regular season. Fate was on the Cougars’ side, however, as they stormed back to take the next two games 14-8, 14-12, behind the stellar all-around play of freshman Malia Ane and senior Brenda Peterson. The marathon 3.5-hour win set up BYU’s first national championship appearance in any woman’s sport and stands as the lone berth in its storied history.     

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