BYU Faces No. 5 Arizona in Central Regional Semifinal Friday

After winning its NCAA first and second round matches in Provo, the No. 12 BYU women's volleyball team travels to Lincoln, Neb., to compete in an NCAA Central Region semifinal match against No. 5-ranked Arizona. The region's third seed, BYU faces a familiar foe in second-seeded Arizona, who defeated the Cougars, 3-1, in Provo earlier this season. The match begins at 5 p.m. CT. Top-ranked Nebraska will face No. 15 Ohio State in the other semifinal Friday at 7:30 p.m. CT.

Friday's winners will play for the Central Region title Saturday at 7 p.m., with the victor advancing to the 2000 NCAA Final Four in Richmond, Va., Dec. 14-16.


If the Cougars win Friday and advance to the Central Regional Finals the match may be televised on Fox Sports Net Rocky Mountain. The determination will not be made by Fox until late Thursday night, pending the outcome of other regional action.

Last Week Summary

No. 12 BYU defeated Hofstra, 3-0, and No. 21 Utah State, 3-0, in Provo. The win over Utah State avenged an earlier three-game loss to the Aggies in Logan, Utah.


Series Notes vs. Arizona

BYU holds a 23-11 advantage over Arizona in the series but the Wildcats defeated the Cougars on Sept. 15 in Provo, 3-1. BYU won 3-2 last year in Tucson. The prior two meetings were both in NCAA Tournament matches. Arizona defeated BYU 3-1 in the 1994 NCAA second round in Provo. The Cougars won their 1993 NCAA tournament match in the West Region semifinals in Los Angeles, 3-1. BYU went on to earn its only NCAA Final Four appearance that season after defeating UCLA at home. The Cougars and Wildcats have meet in two other NCAA matches, with BYU defeating Arizona, 3-2, in the 1985 West Regional semifinals in Palo Alto and winning a first round match, 3-1, in Provo in 1988.

Arizona Wildcats • No. 2 Seed • Ranked No. 5 in AVCA/USA Today Poll

The Pac-10 Co-Champion Arizona Wildcats are 27-4 overall and defeated Alabama A&M and Michigan in three games last week in the first two rounds in Arizona. The Wildcats finished the conference season with a 16-2 record with a five-game loss at UCLA and a four-game defeat at USC. The Wildcats two other losses this year were to the Mountain West's Colorado State (1-3), ranked sixth nationally, and the 14th-ranked UCSB Gauchos (2-3) in the season opener. The Wildcats are hitting .323 as a team while holding their opponents to a .173 attack percentage. Allison Napier (6-2, Sr., OH) , Marisa DaLee (6-3, Sr., MB) and Lisa Rutledge (6-2, So., OH) each average more than three kills per game (3.97, 3.49, 3.04, respectively) to lead the Wildcats to a 17.69 kills per game team average. Setter Dana Burkholder (5-8, Jr.) is tossing up 13.45 assists per game and averages 2.77 digs and 1.71 kills while hitting .356. Arizona is coached by David Rubio (170-91 in his ninth year at Arizona; 290-156 in 14th year overall).

Series Notes vs. Nebraska

Nebraska leads the series, 5-2. The last two matches have required five games to decide the outcome. Nebraska won the last meeting, 3-2, at a neutral site in 1996 (New Mexico Tournament) and BYU won the previous meeting, 3-2, at the 1991 Mizuno Classic in Provo. BYU is 0-2 playing Nebraska in Lincoln with losses in 1990 and 1985.

Nebraska Cornhuskers • No. 1 Seed • Ranked No. 1 in AVCA/USA Poll

The top-ranked Cornhuskers have a perfect 30-0 record. They defeated Princeton, 3-0, and South Carolina, 3-2, at home last week in the NCAA first and second rounds. The Huskers have only been pushed to five games three times this year, but have had to go five games in two of the last three matches. UCLA forced Nebraska to five games on Sept. 10, and Big 12 rival Kansas State forced the Huskers to a 15-12 win in game five on Nov. 26 in Manhattan. South Carolina nearly upset Nebraska Saturday but the Huskers won games four (15-12)and five (15-13) to qualify for this week's play. Nebraska is 17-0 at home this year. Nebraska is the nation's best blocking team, averaging 4.09 blocks per game and hits .316 while holding opponents to a .116 attack percentage. Amber Holmquist averages 3.20 kills and 1.98 blocks while hitting .419 while Laura Pilakowski averages a team-best 4.26 kills per contest.

Series Notes vs. Ohio State

BYU leads the series, 5-0. The last two meetings have been on a neutral court, with BYU winning 3-1 in 1991 and 3-2 in 1989.

Ohio State Buckeyes • No. 4 Seed • Ranked No. 15 in AVCA/USA Poll

Ohio State is 26-6 overall and finished fourth in the Big Ten Conference with a 14-6 record. This will be the team's 12th NCAA Tournament appearance. The Buckeyes are 16-11 in NCAA Tournament matches. Ohio State defeated Ball State (3-1) and Notre Dame (3-2) last week to advance to Lincoln. Ohio State's losses this year were to Minnesota (2-3), Penn State (2-3 and 0-3), Wisconsin (1-3), Michigan (0-3) and Michigan State (1-3). Ohio State won its first 16 matches of the year before losing at Minnesota. After losing four of five matches in a stretch, the Buckeyes enter this week with a four-match winning streak. Five OSU hitter average more than three kills per game, led by Anne Botica (6-1, Jr., OH) at 3.57 kills per game. The team puts down 17.85 kills per contest and hits .260 while holding opponents to a .180 percentage. OSU coach Jim Stone has a 424-187 record in 19 years at Ohio State and is 474-229 in 22 years overall.


BYU Wins First and Second Round Matches

BYU def. Hofstra, 3-0 -- Led by a solid offensive effort from All-American Nina Puikkonen, the BYU women's volleyball team began NCAA Tournament play with a 15-3, 15-10, 15-6 win over Hofstra at home Friday in the Smith Fieldhouse. Hofstra finishes the season at 23-11. Puikkonen was one of four Cougars to record double-digit kills in the match, tallying 16 kills with just one attack error on her way to a .682 hitting percentage. Middle blocker Jackie Bundy also had 16 kills, and recorded a match-high 10 blocks to lead a strong Cougar defensive effort. BYU recorded 17 team blocks to just four for the visiting Lady Dutch. BYU jumped on Hofstra early, opening the match with a 10-0 run. The Cougars went on the win the first game 15-3. Midway through the second game, Hofstra opened up a 10-6 lead. But repeated hitting errors by the Lady Dutch allowed BYU to score the next nine points to take the second game. The BYU defense proved to be too much in the third game, as the Cougars tallied 12 block assists and held Hofstra to a negative attack percentage (-.125) in the final frame.

BYU def. Utah State, 3-0 -- Avenging an early season loss to in-state rival Utah State, BYU defeated the Aggies 15-9, 15-10, 15-10 at the Smith Fieldhouse, Saturday, to move on the sweet sixteen of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament. The Cougars improve their overall record to 26-6 with the win, while the Aggies finish their season at 22-10. All-American Nina Puikkonen was one of four BYU players to record double-digit kills on the night, finishing the match with 14 kills and seven blocks. Sophomore Sunny Tonga had 13 kills for the match, and Jackie Bundy and Kalani Tonga added 10 kills each. Utah State led 9-8 in the first game before BYU scored the next seven points to take the game. Feeding off the strength of a solid front line that recorded 17.5 team blocks, the Cougars managed to slow down the Utah State offense in the second and third games, holding the Aggies to under a .100 hitting percentage in the final frames.

BYU recorded five service aces for the match, including three timely winners by senior Melissa Layton.

BYU in the NCAA Tournament

• This is the 11th straight season the Cougars have qualified for the NCAA Tournament. They have also qualified for the tournament in 19 of the 20 all-time NCAA Tournaments. The only year BYU failed to qualify was 1989 when they finished the season 24-11. Despite the record, BYU failed to earn one of the 17 at-large bids.

• BYU has now advanced to the regional semifinals for five straight years. The Cougars earned a regional finals appearance in three of the previous four seasons, with the exception of last year when BYU lost to Florida in the semifinal match.

• BYU's highest finish in the NCAA Tournament was 1993 when the Cougars lost to Penn State in a national semifinal at the Final Four hosted by Wisconsin.

• BYU is now 16-3 in first round matches (including five byes) and 6-2 in the second round. BYU is 8-5 in the regional semifinals, 1-7 in regional finals and 0-1 in the national semifinals (1993).

• The Cougars have an all-time NCAA Tournament record of 26-18. They are ninth all-time in tournament wins. Stanford has the most all-time tournament wins with 57 (17 losses).


Cougar Team Profile

Coach Elaine Michaelis and her Cougar team enter this week with a 13-match winning streak and a 26-6 record. BYU now has 27 consecutive 20-win seasons. The Cougars have two All-Americans among eight letterwinners and three starters who returned from last year's 28-5 squad. Hitting (ranked 11th nationally) and blocking (ranked second nationally) is again a strength. All six starters stand at least 6-foot tall. Inexperience at the setter position has been the team's biggest question mark after losing all-time assist leader Anna-Lena Smith to graduation but redshirt freshman Karina Puikkonen earned all-conference honors and is averaging 12.74 assists while hitting .297. Headlining the Cougar roster in 2000 is All-American middle blocker Nina Puikkonen, who earned the AVCA National Player of the Week award twice this season. She ranked second nationally in blocking entering the NCAA Tournament (she led the nation as a freshman and finishing third as a sophomore). Both Puikkonen sisters earned All-MWC honors this year along with sophomore rightside hitter Sunny Tonga and junior middle blocker Jackie Bundy. Outside hitters Kalani Tonga, sister of Sunny, and the team's lone senior Melissa Layton round out the starting six. Natalie Whittaker is the primary reserve as both an outside hitter and defensive specialist.

One, Two, Three, Four ... Five?

The Cougars have defeated a No. 1-, No. 2-, No. 3- and No. 4-ranked team this season with wins over then No. 1 Stanford, then No. 2 Long Beach State and two wins over Colorado State when the Rams were then ranked third and fourth. BYU's last win over CSU was for the Mountain West Conference Tournament title and made BYU the automatic NCAA qualifier from the MWC. The Cougars now prepare to face No. 5-ranked Arizona Friday with the chance to record a win against a fifth-ranked opponent.

BYU Plays Nation's Best

BYU's win over Utah State Saturday marked the 13th time this season the Cougars have played a ranked team. BYU has a 9-4 record in those matches with wins over Stanford, LBSU, Colorado State (2), Utah (2) and Kansas State, UCSB and Utah State. BYU has also played two matches, both losses, against teams who were not ranked at the time but have since moved into the top 25 (Notre Dame and Utah State).

Double-Double Club

Nina Puikkonen, who has earned AVCA Sports Imports National Player of the Week twice and four Mountain West Conference Player of the Week honors this year, has recorded a team-leading nine double-doubles and two triple-doubles this year. Her last double-double was Nov. 18 in the Mountain West Conference Tournament Championship match against then-No. 4 Colorado State. In that match she had 15 kills and 12 digs. Both of her triple-doubles this season have been against Utah. She last recorded a triple-double Nov. 17 during the semifinal match of the conference tournament when she recorded 24 kills, 14 digs and 13 blocks. Puikkonen has had double-digit kills in 26 of 30 matches this year, double-figures blocks five times and two-digit digs six times. Jackie Bundy and Karina Puikkonen have five double-doubles each. Bundy last did so with 16 kills and 10 blocks vs. Hofstra last Friday while Karina Puikkonen had 43 assists and 12 digs vs. Utah State Saturday. Kalani and Sunny Tonga each have three double-doubles. Senior Melissa Layton has had two double-doubles.


BYU brings a 13-match overall winning streak into Lincoln. The Cougars have won 11 straight home matches with the last and only home loss being Sept. 15 vs. Arizona. BYU has a six-match road winning streak with its last away loss at nationally ranked Pepperdine. BYU is 3-0 this year on a neutral court.

Game Points

In its 32 matches, BYU had won 82 of 111 games. BYU has scored double-digit points in 96 of its 111 games.

Puikkonen Moving Up Career Charts

It took junior middle blocker Nina Puikkonen just 289 games to top 1,000 kills, averaging 3.79 kpg. The Cougar co-captain has 459 kills (4.17 kpg) this season to bring her career total to 1,271 in two-plus seasons. She needs 39 more kills to move past Marinda G. Ashman (1310 kills from 1987-90) into sixth place on BYU's all-time list. Dylann Duncan (1985-88) tops the list at 2,188 career kills. Puikkonen has 208 blocks this year while ranking second in the nation with a 1.89 average per game. She has moved from fifth into third on the all-time BYU blocks list with 643 career blocks. She is on pace to have a shot at Duncan's BYU-best 888 career blocks.

Michaelis Surpassed 850-Win Milestone this Season

Second all-time in division I wins, BYU coach Elaine Michaelis achieved her 850th career win with a 3-0 win over San Diego State on Sept. 23. Michaelis now has an 867-215-5 overall record in 32 seasons since records were kept. She has an amazing .798 winning percentage. She has coached at BYU for 39 seasons overall and is the all-time leader in women's volleyball wins among female coaches.

BYU Athletes Earns Both National and Conference Player Awards

Junior middle blocker Nina Puikkonen earned AVCA Sports Imports National Player of the Week honors twice (Sept. 11 and Nov. 20) this year. She was the only player to earn the award more than once this season. She also earned four Mountain West Conference Player of the Week awards (Sept. 11, Oct. 16, Nov. 6, Nov. 20). Sophomore rightside hitter Sunny Tonga earned one MWC Player of the Week award (Oct. 30).

Four Cougars Named All-MWC

Four BYU players earned All-MWC honors, including juniors Jackie Bundy (MB) and Nina Puikkonen (MB), sophomore Sunny Tonga (MB) and freshman Karina Puikkonen (S). Nina Puikkonen, a two-time All-MWC selection and three-time all-conference player (All-WAC as a freshman), is second in the nation in blocking, while Bundy currently ranks 15th. Nina Puikkonen, the only MWC player to earn National Player of the Week honors (she did so twice this year), earned MWC Player of the Year last year while Tonga was the 1999 MWC Freshman of the Year.

BYU's All-Tournament Honors

McLeodUSA MWC Championship

MVP - Nina Puikkonen, Jr., MB

Sunny Tonga, So., OH

BYU Mizuno Classic

MVP - Nina Puikkonen, Jr., MB

Sunny Tonga, So., OH

Jackie Bundy, Jr., MB

Shamrock Invitational

Nina Puikkonen, Jr., MB

Sunny Tonga, So., OH

Melissa Layton, Sr., OH

Verizon Academic All-District Honors

2000 All-Distric VIII Third Team

Nina Puikkonen, 3.43 GPA, Zoology


Nina Puikkonen • Jr • MB

She was named MWC Player of the Week four times this year and was selected AVCA National Player of the Week twice this season ... she was an all-conference selection for the third straight year ... she was named the MVP of the conference tournament after leading the Cougars to the tournament championship ... she has recorded double-digit kills in 28 of 32 matches ... she had 20 or more kills in four matches, including a season-high 25 kills against LBSU ... She had a team-high nine double-doubles and two triple-doubles ( both vs. Utah) ... overall, she leads the team in kills (459), block solos (23), block assists (185), total blocks (208) and is second with 38 service aces and 225 digs ... she has a team-best averages of 4.17 kpg, 1.89 bpg and a .364 hitting percentage ... in MWC conference matches she was first in the MWC in kills (4.30) and service aces (0.43), second in the in blocks (1.68), and third in hitting (.369) ... she was selected to the Verizon Academic District VIII Third Team.

Karina Puikkonen • Fr • S

She was named all-conference in her first season as the Cougars' setter ... she led the BYU offense to an overall team hitting percentage of .280, which ranks 11th nationally ... she has recorded five double-doubles ... she matched career-best 12 digs vs. Hofstra last Friday ... she had a career-high nine kills vs. Pepperdine, narrowly missing a triple-double ... overall, she is third on the team in hitting (.297) and is averaging 12.74 assists, 1.59 digs and 0.98 blocks per game ... she was second in the MWC in assists (12.65) and 10th in service aces (0.33) in conference matches.

Jackie Bundy • Jr • MB

She was an all-MWC selection ... she ranked 15th nationally in blocking before the tournament at 1.54 bpg but has improved her average to 1.60 ... she has had 17 double-digit kills matches, including 11 of the last 15 ... she has double-digit digs in six matches ... she had a BYU season-best 14 blocks at Notre Dame ... she had five double-doubles this season ... she tied a career and season high with 16 kills vs. Utah State Saturday.

Sunny Tonga • So • RS

She was named to the All-Mountain West Conference team ... she was named to the all-MWC tournament team, BYU Mizuno Classic team and Shamrock Invitational team ... she was named MWC Player of the Week on Oct. 30 ... she had 21 double-digit kill matches, including seven of the last nine ... she has had three double-doubles ... she had more than 20 kills twice, including a career-best 21 vs. LBSU ... overall, she is second on the team in kills (347), kills per game (3.18), hitting percentage (.327), and assists (75) and is in blocks average (1.15) ... she averages 1.68 digs ... she was fourth in the MWC in hitting (.331) and ninth in kills (3.28) in conference matches.

Kalani Tonga • Jr • OH

She had three double-doubles ... had eight double-digit kills and 10 double-digit dig matches ... she had a season-high 16 kills against Colorado State in MWC title match, finishing one dig shy of a double-double against the Rams ... she recorded a season-high 18 digs against Utah on Nov. 3 ... overall, averages 2.46 kills and leads the team with 2.45 digs per game (262 digs) ... in conference matches she finished fifth in the conference in digs (2.70) and ninth in service aces (0.34).

Melissa Layton • Sr • OH

She has had 15 double-digit kill matches this season, including six of the last seven ... she has recorded five double-digit dig matches ... she had two double-doubles ... she had 15 or more kills four times, including a career-high 19 kills at Pepperdine ... a jump server, she leads BYU in aces (42) and aces per game (0.40) and is fourth in digs (198) ... she averages 2.71 kills and 1.90 digs per game and has a .242 hitting percentage ... she was tied for third in the MWC in aces (0.39) in conference matches.

Natalie Whittaker • Jr • OH

She has played in 63 of 111 games as BYU's top reserve ... she averages 2.00 digs and 0.54 kills while hitting .207 in mostly a defensive role ... she established a career high with six kills to help BYU come from behind to defeat LBSU in five games ... she had a season-best 11 digs vs. Wyoming ... she has had three double-digit dig matches.

Coach Michaelis Profile

Now in her 39th year at the helm of the BYU program, Elaine Michaelis also enters her sixth year as Director of Women's Athletics. A proven winner, Michaelis is second all-time in Division I victories with an 867-215-5 record (since records were kept in 1969) and has the most wins ever by a female coach. With BYU's 26-6 record this season, Michaelis posted her 27th consecutive 20-win season and her 29th in 32 years since records have been kept at BYU beginning in 1969. She has never had a losing season. Her team won this year's Mountain West Tournament title and with last year's MWC regular season title she has the distinction of winning the inaugural championship in each of the five leagues in which BYU has been a volleyball member. Michaelis is 25-3 in MWC play in two years and now has an overall conference mark of 344-33. This is the fifth straight year she has guided her team to the NCAA Regional semifinal round of 16. The Cougars' foray into the 2000 NCAA tournament is their 19th in the 20-year history of NCAA control of the sport. It also marked the 29th time BYU has participated in a national tournament. BYU's two wins this year in the NCAA Tournament have improved Michaelis' national tournament record to 73-42 (.635). Michaelis is 26-18 in the NCAA Tournament.