2001 Season Review

Nina Puikkonen ended her All-America career as BYU's all-time leader in career hitting percentage and blocks per game while ranking in the top five in nearly every category. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

Season Proves to be the Last for Legendary Coach Elaine Michaelis

BYU achieved its 28th consecutive 20-win season in 2001 as head coach Elaine Michaelis guided the Cougars to a 20-9 record and an NCAA tournament appearance. For the tradition-rich Cougar program, the season was full of ups and downs before finishing the season ranked 22nd in the final AVCA poll.

In what would prove to be the final season for the legendary coach after 40 years at the helm, the 2001 team struggled at times but brought Michaelis her 20th NCAA tournament invite in 21 years and helped her finish her career ranked first among female coaches and second all-time in Division I wins at 887 victories. Michaelis retired from coaching in May 2002.

With a talent-laden line up featuring All-American Nina Puikkonen, All-West Region Sunny Mahe and All-MWC players Jackie Bundy and Karina Puikkonen, the defending 2000 Mountain West Conference champions had a preseason No. 11 ranking and were primed for a big season.

The Cougars started the season strong and the month of September proved prognosticators true, as BYU dominated with a 9-1 record, which included seven 3-0 sweeps, and wins over then top-25 teams Colorado, Utah and UC Santa Barbara.

On Oct. 5, the Cougars elected to strengthen their attack by bringing freshman Fab 50 recruit Lauren Richards out of redshirt season. Richards sat out the first 10 matches of the season, and had been practicing as a setter, but she immediately stepped into the starting lineup as an outside hitter. Richards quickly displayed her potential, and she later put up a career-high 20 kills against No. 1 Long Beach State on Nov. 24.

After stumbling mid-season due in part to injuries and illnesses, including Nina Puikkonen's on-going recovery from a summer leg injury, BYU struggled to maintain consistency. Despite the Cougars' struggles, they continued to rack up wins.

BYU finished the 2001 MWC play in third place with a 10-4 conference record. Amazingly, the third-place finish marked only the second time in the history of BYU's program that the Cougars had not earned a first- or second-place conference regular season finish. BYU also finished third in 1978.

BYU beat Wyoming in three games in the first match of the MWC tournament being hosted at the Smith Fieldhouse. Facing Utah in the semifinals, BYU fell in four close games. The Utes advanced to the championship match and defeated No. 1-seed Colorado State for the league tournament title. In addition to the automatic bid awarded to Utah, three other MWC teams were invited to play in the NCAA tournament, including nationally ranked Colorado State and BYU and fourth-place San Diego State.

Only one of eight teams with 20 NCAA appearances, BYU returned to NCAA tournament play for the 12th straight year, but its season was ended in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991. The Cougars faced Utah State in Salt Lake City and lost a closely fought five-game match to the in-state Aggies.

During the season, Sunny Mahe earned AVCA/Sports Imports National Player of the Week honors once (Oct. 1), and was named MWC Player of the Week twice (Sept. 3 and Oct. 1). Nina Puikkonen was named MWC Co-Player of the Week once (Oct. 29).

Four BYU players were named to the 2001 All-Mountain West Conference Volleyball Team. Sisters Nina (senior middle blocker) and Karina Puikkonen (sophomore setter) and Sunny Mahe (junior rightside hitter) earned all-conference honors for the second straight year and Uila Crabbe (sophomore defensive specialist) was a first-time honoree. Crabbe was named MWC Co-Defensive Specialist. Hailing from Miliani, Hawai'i, Crabbe totaled 118 digs in league play as a defensive specialist.

BYU's 2001 roster featured three seniors, Nina Puikkonen, Jackie Bundy and Natalie Whittaker, all of whom were starters.

Nina Puikkonen capped off her All-American career by averaging a conference-best 4.24 kills per game. She also ranked second in blocks (1.59), and eighth in attack percentage (.292) to go with 2.33 digs a game. She had her fourth career triple-double with career highs of 32 kills and 20 digs along with a season-high 11 blocks versus Cal Poly SLO on Nov. 23. She finished with 441 kills on the season, and passed Gale Johnson for fifth in all-time kills at BYU (1720). She also passed former BYU All-American and U.S. National Team member Amy Steele Gant for second all-time in total blocks (806) and block assists (701) and is the school's all-time leader in blocks per game (1.87). She also recorded a team-high 13 double-doubles in 2001.

Bundy finished the season averaging 3.02 kills and 2.03 digs per game with a .198 attack percentage. Her 1.10 blocks ranked ninth in the conference. Bundy had her first career triple-double in BYU's win over No. 23 Colorado on Sept. 6, in the BYU Mizuno Classic. She totaled 15 kills, 12 digs and a season-high 10 blocks on the night.

Whittaker led the MWC in digs with 3.04 digs per game. She played in all 104 games and added 1.91 kills per game while hitting .227.

2001 HIGHLIGHTS AND AWARDS

Cougars in Conference Stats

Team:

Blocks: 3rd -- 3.04

Hitting: 2nd -- .261

Kills: 2nd -- 16.47

Assists: 2nd -- 14.74

Aces: 7th -- 1.37

Digs: 1st -- 14.38

Individual:

Blocks: Nina Puikkonen, 2nd -- 1.59

Jackie Bundy, 9th -- 1.10

Hitting: Sunny Mahe, 6th -- .319

Nina Puikkonen, 8th-- .292

Kills: Nina Puikkonen, 1st -- 4.24

Sunny Mahe, 5th -- 3.56

Assists: Karina Puikkonen, 2nd -- 12.65

Digs: Natalie Whittaker, 1st -- 3.04

Uila Crabbe, 8th -- 2.47

Cougars in National Stats

Team:

Blocks: 14th -- 3.04

Assists: 25th -- 14.74

Kills: 26th -- 16.47

Individual:

Blocks: Nina Puikkonen, 11th -- 1.59

Assists: Karina Puikkonen, 28th -- 12.65

BYU's Individual Honors

AVCA National Player of the Week

MVP - Sunny Mahe, Jr., OH

All-MWC Team

Nina Puikkonen, Sr., MB

Sunny Mahe, Jr., OH

Karina Puikkonen, So., S

Uila Crabbe, So., DS

All-MWC Tournament Team

Uila Crabbe, So., DS

Nina Puikkonen, Sr., MB

MWC All-Academic

Uila Crabbe, So., DS

Karina Puikkonen, So., S

Nina Puikkonen, Sr., MB

MWC Player of the Week

Sunny Mahe, Jr., OH (twice)

Nina Puikkonen, Sr., MB

Point Huskies Invitational Team

Nina Puikkonen, Sr., MB

Sunny Mahe, Jr., OH

BYU Mizuno Classic Team

MVP - Sunny Mahe, Jr., OH

Nina Puikkonen, Sr., MB

Jackie Bundy, Sr., MB

Karina Puikkonen, So., S

Verizon Academic All-District VIII Team

Nina Puikkonen, 3.43 GPA, Zoology -- 2nd Team

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