BYU Ends CSU Home Winning Streak to Claim MWC Tournament Title | The Official Site of BYU Athletics

BYU Ends CSU Home Winning Streak to Claim MWC Tournament Title

Nina Puikkonen Named MWC Tournament MVP

FORT COLLINS -- Ending Colorado State's NCAA-best 44-match home winning streak, BYU returned the blow the Rams dealt BYU last year winning the Mountain West Conference Tournament on the host team's home court. In one of the most dramatic matches of the year, BYU out lasted the Rams in five games, 15-11, 8-15, 15-7, 9-15, 15-8.

"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."

When asked by a reporter what was next, Michaelis wittingly replied. "I don't know. Whose (ranked) fifth?"

The Cougars don't have the fifth-ranked team on their schedule, which includes No. 14 UC Santa Barbara next week, but they have put themselves in a position to host the first two rounds of the upcoming NCAA Tournament with their 10th straight win. Improving to 23-6 overall, the Cougars have defeated four ranked teams in the run, including the Rams twice.

"BYU blocked exceptionally well throughout the tournament and blocking was the reason BYU was better than us tonight," Colorado State coach Tom Hilbert said of the Cougars' incredible tournament average of 4.58 blocks per game. "They did the same thing to us as we did to them last year (the No. 2-seed winning on the others home court). BYU was tremendously balanced tonight -- they all played well."

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.

"I didn't play as well on offensive," Tonga said. "I made a conscious effort to step up my blocking."

Sunny's sister Kalani 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. Jackie Bundy added 12 kills and Melissa Layton had her fourth straight double-digit kill night with 11. Natalie Whittaker played all five games and contributed 10 digs.

Colorado State dropped only its third match of the year to fall to 29-3. The Cougars join No. 1 Nebraska as the only teams to beat CSU this year, but become the first team to beat the Rams at Moby Arena in nearly three seasons. The 2,452 Ram fans may have left disappointed in the outcome but not in the volleyball.

After starting the match with three quick points, BYU committed the first of five service errors in the game to give Colorado State the serve and the Rams took advantage with a dominating run of nine straight points. The Cougars kept fighting, however, and were able to sideout effectively and eventually retake the lead at 11-10 on a Bundy straight-down kill off a Ram overpass. BYU took game one when a strong serve by freshman Uila Crabbe forced another CSU overpass, which Puikkonen pounced on for the 15-11 win.

Despite committing six errors to Colorado State's one in game one, BYU hit a sizzling .467 as a team while the Rams hit only .162. Bundy and Kalani Tonga had four kills apiece in the game while Courtney Cox had eight for CSU.

The match continued to be hard fought in the second game but the Rams were able to maintain the upper hand throughout the game. They hit .370 and scored the final four points to turn an 11-8 lead into the 15-8 win to even the match.

The third game continued at the pace of the first two, taking more than 30 minutes with one sideout following another. BYU took some early momentum with a 3-0 lead and methodically built the lead to a 12-4 advantage. The Rams made a small run to get to 12-7 after CSU coach Tom Hilbert received a yellow card from the official for arguing that a BYU ball hit the net's antennae. BYU did not loose its focus and got points off consecutive blocks by Nina Puikkonen and Sunny Tonga before Nina put down a kill and Kalani Tonga gave BYU a 2-1 game lead with an ace.

With the match more than two hours old, CSU forced a rally-scoring fifth game when Krista Swartzendruber served an ace in the back left corner to give the Rams a 15-9 win in game four. Suddenly the battle of sideouts in the first four games became an intense fight for every point in the rally format.

After taking a slight 8-6 lead as the teams exchanged sides of the court, BYU suddenly put the host Rams away scoring seven of the final nine points. Appropriately, the tournament's MVP gave BYU the win with Puikkonen putting down her 53rd kill of the championship. The match lasted 2 hours and 25 minutes.

Other members of the all-tournament team included CSU's Cox, who had a match-high 27 kills, and Angela Knopf, Utah's Kim Turner and San Diego State's Aspen McPartland. CSU's Allison Peckham was given the tournament's outstanding setter award and Utah's Alisa Geddes was the top defensive specialist.

BYU will now travel to face No. 14 UC Santa Barbara in its final match before the NCAA Tournament.

Volleyball Box Score

BYU Cougars vs Colorado State (Nov 18, 2000 at Fort Collins, Colo.)

BYU Cougars | ATTACK |SET| SERVE |SRV|DEF| BLOCK |GEN

## Name GP| K E TA PCT| A| SA SE| RE|DIG|BS BA BE|BHE

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

2 WHITTAKER, Natalie.. 5| 0 1 3 -.333| 1| 1 0| 2| 10| 0 0 0| 0

5 PUIKKONEN, Karina... 5| 3 1 8 .250| 52| 0 2| 0| 9| 0 3 0| 0

9 PUIKKONEN, Nina..... 5| 15 6 35 .257| 0| 2 2| 0| 12| 0 8 0| 0

10 BUNDY, Jackie....... 5| 12 5 27 .259| 2| 1 1| 1| 5| 1 7 0| 0

14 TONGA, Kalani....... 5| 16 5 36 .306| 0| 1 1| 2| 9| 1 2 0| 1

15 TONGA, Sunny........ 5| 9 4 22 .227| 2| 0 1| 0| 3| 1 9 0| 0

3 CRABBE, Uila........ 5| 1 0 1 1.000| 0| 0 1| 0| 1| 0 0 0| 0

12 LAYTON, Melissa..... 5| 11 2 21 .429| 0| 0 2| 0| 2| 1 1 0| 0

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Totals.............. 5| 67 24 153 .281| 57| 5 10| 5| 51| 4 30 0| 1

TEAM ATTACK PER GAME TOTAL TEAM BLOCKS: 19.0

Game K E TA Pct

1 16 2 30 .467 GAME SCORES 1 2 3 4 5 TEAM RECORDS

2 15 6 41 .220 BYU Cougars......... 15 8 15 9 15 23-6, 12-2 MWC

3 17 4 30 .433 Colorado State...... 11 15 7 15 8 29-3, 13-1 MWC

4 12 9 30 .100

5 7 3 22 .182

Colorado State | ATTACK |SET| SERVE |SRV|DEF| BLOCK |GEN

## Name GP| K E TA PCT| A| SA SE| RE|DIG|BS BA BE|BHE

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

4 COX, Courtney....... 5| 27 11 55 .291| 0| 0 1| 0| 6| 0 3 0| 0

5 KNOPF, Angela....... 5| 11 3 24 .333| 3| 0 2| 3| 8| 0 5 0| 0

6 SANTOS, Soraya...... 5| 15 3 29 .414| 6| 1 2| 0| 15| 2 0 0| 0

8 SWARTZENDRUBER, Kris 5| 9 11 36 -.056| 2| 3 4| 1| 6| 1 3 0| 0

9 JENNINGS, Summer.... 5| 12 9 32 .094| 0| 0 0| 0| 0| 0 2 1| 0

15 PECKHAM, Allison.... 5| 2 1 6 .167| 55| 0 0| 0| 7| 1 2 0| 1

3 DARGER, Emily....... 1| 0 1 1-1.000| 0| 0 0| 0| 0| 0 0 0| 0

17 PETTIT, Katherine... 5| 0 0 0 .000| 2| 1 1| 1| 7| 0 0 0| 0

20 KERR, Kelly......... 3| 0 0 0 .000| 0| 0 0| 0| 0| 0 0 0| 0

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Totals.............. 5| 76 39 183 .202| 68| 5 10| 5| 49| 4 15 1| 1

TEAM ATTACK PER GAME TOTAL TEAM BLOCKS: 11.5

Game K E TA Pct

1 16 10 37 .162 Site: Fort Collins, Colo. (Moby Arena)

2 25 8 46 .370 Date: Nov 18, 2000 Attend: 2452 Time: 2:25

3 16 7 39 .231 Referees: Patsy Malta, Eric Asani

4 14 7 38 .184 Game 3 - CSU Coach Hilbert Yellow Card at 4-11

5 5 7 23 -.087 Brigham Young wins MWC Championship