1999 Women's Volleyball Season Summary

Caroline Bower

Finishing with a 28-5 record and the inaugural Mountain West Conference regular season title, BYU proved to be one of the nation's top teams in 1999.

The Cougars received All-America seasons from three different players and advanced to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight season. With its ninth-place tie in the tournament, BYU recorded its 19th overall top-10 national finish in the 31 years volleyball records have been kept at the university. In the NCAA tournament, the Cougars defeated Princeton and Wisconsin in the first two rounds in Provo before dropping its East Regional semifinal match to then fourth-ranked Florida in Stockton, Calif.

After opening the year with a 3-0 loss to Michigan at the Georgia Invitational, the Cougars won six straight matches before a road loss at eventual NCAA runner-up Stanford. Among the six straight wins was a 3-2 home victory over nationally ranked Pepperdine. In the win over the Waves, BYU set a new Smith Fieldhouse attendance mark with 3,553 fans cheering the Cougars to victory.

BYU won 20 of its next 22 matches while earning the inaugural Mountain West Conference title and its 10th straight NCAA tournament berth. Recording a 13-1 conference mark, BYU suffered its lone conference loss at Colorado State, who also upset the Cougars in the MWC Tournament Finals in Provo to end a string of 12 straight BYU wins. The string of wins included victories over Notre Dame, Arizona State and nationally ranked Arizona. BYU was ranked as high as eighth during the season.

Individually, senior setter Anna-Lena Smith and sophomore middle blocker Nina Puikkonen each earned second-team American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America honors while freshman rightside hitter Sunny Tonga was selected to the Freshman All-America team by Volleyball magazine. All three players swept the conference's top awards as Puikkonen was named the MWC Player of the Year, Smith the Setter of the Year and Tonga the Freshman of the Year.

In her final season, Smith set the Cougars' all-time assist record with 5,975 career assists, surpassing current U.S. National Team setter Charlene Johnson Tagaloa. Tonga also put her name in the BYU record book in 1999 with her .909 hitting effort (10-0-11) at Wyoming while Puikkonen finished the season third nationally in blocking.

Joining Puikkonen and Smith on the MWC All-Conference First Team was senior outside hitter Caroline Bower. The Cougar captain had seven double-doubles on the year and matched her career best with a MWC record 27 digs in BYU's win over No. 18 Arizona. Fellow senior outside hitter Mari Carpenter earned second-team all-conference honors for the second straight year while averaging 3.75 kills per game.

The Cougars were the top hitting and blocking team in the conference and finished second statistically in both kills and assists. Nationally, BYU rated third as a team in blocking and sixth in hitting. Puikkonen, who finished third nationally in blocking and 18th in hitting percentage, led the conference in blocks, kills and hitting. Smith was second in assists, Bower second in digs and junior Melissa Layton second in service aces.

1999 Season Highlights

* With its 28-5 overall record, BYU won 20-plus matches for the 26th straight season. The Cougars have never had a losing record.

* BYU won the inaugural conference title with a 13-1 regular season record. The Cougars have won the inaugural league title in all five conferences in which BYU has been a member.

* BYU advanced to the East Regional Semifinals of the NCAA tournament. It was BYU's 10th straight NCAA appearance and its 18th in the 19 years of the event.

* All five 1999 Cougar losses came against NCAA tournament teams (Michigan, No. 2 Stanford, No. 12 Colorado State (twice) and No. 5 Florida). The Cougar wins over ranked teams included No. 10 Pepperdine, No. 12 Colorado State, No. 14 Arizona and No. 23 Wisconsin.

* BYU had 25 matches that were completed in the minimum three games in 1999. The Cougars recorded 20 three-game wins while suffering all five defeats by 3-0 counts.

* BYU set a new Smith Fieldhouse attendance mark with 3,553 fans cheering the Cougars to a 3-2 victory over 10th-ranked Pepperdine on Sept. 18, 1999.

* The Cougars were ranked 13th by the AVCA and ninth by Volleyball magazine in the final polls.

* BYU coach Elaine Michaelis improved her career win-loss record to 841-209-5. She is second all-time in Division I victories while guiding her teams to 10 top-five and 19 top-10 national finishes, including the 1993 Final Four.

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