BYU will play its third consecutive conference road match Friday when it takes on rival Utah in Salt Lake City. The match starts at 7 p.m. at Crimson Court.
The Cougars are 11-4 overall and 3-1 in the Mountain West Conference while the Utes enter the week with an 12-2 mark and identical 3-1 conference record. Utah hosted a nonconference match Tuesday against Idaho State with the Utes coming out on top 15-6, 15-10, 15-5. Both the Cougars and Utes suffered their lone league loss last week at No. 3 Colorado State. BYU is ranked 13th (AVCA/USA Today) and 11th (Volleyball magazine) in the national polls while the Utes boast rankings of 16 and 18, respectively, in the two polls.
KJZZ-TV (channel 14 in Salt Lake City) will televise the BYU vs. Utah match tape-delay on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 11 a.m.
Last Week Summary
Â• BYU defeated Weber State (3-0) at home before splitting its first conference road trip of the year with a loss at No. 3 Colorado State (0-3) and a win at Wyoming (3-0). BYU hit .276 as a team during the week while holding its opponents to a .164 hitting percentage.
Â• The BYU loss to Colorado State was the Cougars fourth loss in the last five meetings with the Rams dating back to 1997. BYU hasn't lost to a Mountain West Conference team other than Colorado State since Sept. 27, 1996 when San Diego State defeated the Cougars 3-2 at San Diego State.
Â• With the match against Colorado State, the Cougars have now played a No. 1 team (Stanford) a No. 2 team (Long Beach State) and a No. 3 team (Colorado State). The Cougars defeated both Stanford and Long Beach State before losing to the Rams. BYU has a 2-1 record against the three teams this season.
BYU Plays Nation's Best
BYU's match at Utah Friday will be the sixth time this season the Cougars will play a team ranked in the top 20 (3-2 record). The Cougars have also played two other teams, both losses, who were not ranked at the time but have since moved into the top 20 (Notre Dame and Utah State). The Cougars still have matches with No. 6 Pepperdine, No. 15 UC Santa Barbara and return dates with Utah and Colorado State on their schedule.
Puikkonen Moving Up Career Charts
Junior middle blocker Nina Puikkonen totaled 26 kills in a pair of matches last weekend, bringing her career total to 1,022 in two-plus seasons. It took the Cougar co-captain just 270 games to top 1,000 kills, a career average of 3.79 kpg. She needs 168 more kills to move past Michele Fellows (1190 kills from 1990-93) into 7th place on BYU's all-time list. Dylann Duncan (1985-88) tops the list at 2,188 career kills. Puikkonen has also moved from fifth into third on the all-time blocks list with 533 career blocks. She is on pace to have a shot at Duncan's BYU-best 888 career blocks.
Michaelis Surpasses 850-Win Milestone
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. With BYU's 2-1 record last week, Michaelis now has an 852-213-5 overall record in 32 seasons since records were kept. She has an amazing .796 winning percentage. She has coached at BYU for 39 seasons overall and is the all-time leader in volleyball wins among female coaches.
Karina Puikkonen Off to Solid Start
Redshirt freshman setter Karina Puikkonen is off to a solid start in her first season. She is averaged 12.65 assists per game (2nd in MWC) while hitting .326 with 1.321 kills per game. She also adds 1.31 digs and 1.10 blocks (7th in MWC) per game and has had 15 aces. She has distributed the ball well with all five BYU hitters averaging more than 2.50 kills per game.
Nina Puikkonen, who has earned AVCA Sports Imports National Player of the Week and Mountain West Conference Player of the Week honors this year, has recorded a team-leading four double-doubles this year. She last accomplished the feat with 10 kills and a season-high 12 blocks vs. Temple. Puikkonen has had double-digit kills in 13 of 15 matches this year, double-figures blocks twice and two-digit digs twice. Kalani and Sunny Tonga each have two double-doubles, including Kalani's 10 kills, 10 digs effort against nationally ranked Arizona. She just missed a third double-double with 14 digs and nine kills vs. Fairfield. Kalani has had 10 or more digs a team-leading five times this year. Jackie Bundy and Melissa Layton each have one double-double and both players have come close on other occasions (Jackie had 9 digs vs. Long Beach State and UNLV and 9 kills with 12 digs at CSU while Melissa had 9 kills with 14 digs vs. Notre Dame).
BYU is coming off a win at Wyoming after having its four-match win streak snapped at Colorado State last Friday. The Cougars are 1-3 on the road this year. The Cougars' longest win streak of the year is five matches. BYU lost back-to-back matches to end the five-match streak, the first time since 1997 that the Cougars have suffered consecutive losses.
Coach Elaine Michaelis and her Cougar team look to extend a string of 26 consecutive 20-win seasons this year with two All-Americans returning among eight letterwinners and three starters from last year's 28-5 squad. The Cougars expect to challenge for the Mountain West Conference title and make another run in the NCAA tournament. Hitting and blocking will again be BYU's strength while five outstanding hitters on the court. All six starters stand at least 6-foot tall. Inexperience at the setter position is the team's biggest question mark after losing all-time assist leader Anna-Lena Smith to graduation but redshirt freshman Karina Puikkonen has stepped in nicely thus far, averaging 12.39 assists. Headlining the Cougar roster in 2000 is two-time All-American middle blocker Nina Puikkonen, who leads the nation in blocking (she led the nation as a freshman and finishing third as a sophomore). The 6-3 junior was a unanimous selection as the inaugural Mountain West Conference Player of the Year last season while leading the conference in blocks (1.85), kills (4.29) and hitting (.373). And sophomore Sunny Tonga, the Volleyball magazine Freshman All-American and MWC Freshman of the Year in 1999, may have just given Cougar fans a glimpse of her potential while playing in 68 of BYU's 110 games last year.
BYU is 58-6 vs. Utah in the all-time series dating back to 1970. The Cougars have won nine straight matches against the Utes, including four straight in Salt Lake City. BYU has won the last six matches without dropping a game. The last time the Utes took a game from BYU was a 3-1 defeat in Salt Lake on Oct. 29, 1996. The last match victory for Utah in the series was a 3-0 victory in Salt Lake on Sept. 22, 1995. Overall, BYU maintains a 19-5 record in Salt Lake against the Utes along with a 28-1 home mark and 11-0 neutral-court record.
Scouting Utah Â• Ranked No. 16 AVCA/USA Today
Utah is 11-2 overall and 3-1 in Mountain West Conference play entering the week. The Utes play Idaho State at home Tuesday before facing the Cougars Friday. Utah split matches on the road last week against Wyoming and Colorado State. The Utes defeated Wyoming 3-1 (15-10, 8-15, 10-15) in Laramie, Wyo., before losing to No. 3 Colorado State 0-3 (15-1, 15-8, 15-10) in Fort Collins, Colo. The Utes are off to their best season ever with a No. 16 national ranking and a win over then-No. 1 Stanford. The Utes earned their first-ever national ranking (18th in the USA Today/AVCA Top 25 poll) earlier this year after defeating the Cardinal. Utah will battle its fifth ranked team of the season when it faces BYU. The Utes have a 2-2 vs. ranked teams this season (wins include then-No. 1-ranked Stanford in five games on Sept. 5, and then-No. 24-ranked San Diego on Sept. 9). The Utes return five starters among 12 letterwinners from last year's NCAA tournament team. The Utes are led by McKelle Stilson (Jr., MB), who averages 3.24 kills per game with a .312 attack percentage, and Kim Turner (Fr., MB), who adds 2.71 kills and a team-best .331 hitting percentage. Other top players include Jen Snow-Richards (Sr., OH), Lucie TurkovÃ¡ (Sr., S), Katrena Ellett (So., MB), Alisa Geddes (Jr., OH), Brooke Barton (Sr., OH/DS), and Adrianne Bradley-Drake (Jr., OH/DS). Utah is coached by Beth Launiere, who enters the week with a 191-140 overall record in her 11th year, all at Utah.
BYU on the Road
BYU got its first true away win of the season Saturday at Wyoming. BYU is now 1-3 in away matches and 1-0 in neutral site contests.
Cougars among Statistical Leaders
BYU is second in the nation in blocking and 12th in hitting (.280) as a team in the last NCAA rankings (Sept. 24). The Cougars are the top Mountain West Conference team in blocking (3.67 bpg) and aces (1.91 sapg) and are second in kills (16.43 kpg), hitting percentage (.276) and assists (14.58 apg). BYU is sixth in digs (11.58). Individually, Nina Puikkonen leads the nation and conference in blocking (1.85 bpg). Entering the week, she ranks third in the conference in hitting (.343) fourth in kills (3.96 kpg), and eighth in aces (0.38 sapg). Karina Puikkonen is second in the MWC in assists (12.65 apg) and seventh in blocking (1.10 bpg). Melissa Layton is fourth in the conference in aces (0.49 sapg) while Sunny Tonga rates sixth in hitting (.364) and 10th in aces (0.34). Jackie Bundy is rated fourth among MWC blockers (1.45 bpg).
BYU ranks second nationally in blocking (3.67 bpg) behind No. 1 Nebraska. The Cougar have traditionally had one of the nation's top blocking teams, finishing third nationally last year. All-American Nina Puikkonen leads the nation individually with 1.85 blocks per game. Puikkonen led the nation individually as a freshman and last year was the country's third-best blocker by average. This year the Cougars out blocked their opponents in 11 of 14 matches. BYU out blocked the opposition in the first six matches (5-1 record) but was then out blocked in three straight matches. BYU defeated then second-ranked Long Beach State but was edged at the net 13.5 to 12.5 by the tall 49er frontline. Then in back-to-back losses at Utah State and vs. then No. 13 Arizona, BYU was out blocked 11.5-7.0 and 11.0-9.5, respectively. The Cougars were out blocked again in its win at Wyoming when the Cowgirls mustered seven blocks to BYU's six, which was a BYU season low. BYU had a team-high 20 blocks in loss at Notre Dame. BYU has recorded double-digit blocks as a team in 10 of its 15 matches. Four Cougars average one or more blocks per game.
In its 15 matches, BYU had won 36 of 53 games. BYU has scored double-digit points in 46 of its 53 games (in 10 of 17 games lost).
Nina Puikkonen was named the MVP the BYU Mizuno Classic. She was joined on the all-tournament team by Cougar teammates Sunny Tonga and Jackie Bundy. Melissa Layton, Nina Puikkonen and Sunny Tonga were earlier named to the Shamrock Invitational All-Tournament Team.
Puikkonen Named AVCA/Sports Imports National Player of the Week
Nina Puikkonen, a 6-3 junior middle blocker from Murray, Utah, was named the AVCA/Sports Imports Division I National Player of the Week after leading then-No. 17 BYU to a 5-0 record with three wins over top 20 teams Sept. 11-16. Puikkonen, the BYU Mizuno Classic Most Valuable Player, attacked at a .400 hitting percentage for the week with wins over then-No. 1 Stanford, then-No. 2 Long Beach State, then-No. 20 Kansas State, Oral Roberts and Fairfield. She tied a career high in kills (25), had a season high in digs (12) and set a new high for aces (4) versus Long Beach State. Puikkonen, who was one dig away from a triple double against Stanford, averaged 4.63 kills, 2.32 digs, 2.16 blocks and 0.42 aces during the week, while posting a .400 attack percentage on 160 attempts. Puikkonen becomes the second BYU player to be recognized as the national player of the week. Former Cougar middle blocker Amy Steele Gant, who went on to play for the U.S. National Team, earned the previous award, Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 1996.
Puikkonen Earns Mountain West Conference Player of the Week
Nina Puikkonen was named the Mountain West Conference Volleyball Player of the Week for the week of Sept. 11-16, marking the first time this season and the third time overall Puikkonen has earned the award. She helped the Cougars to a 5-0 week record, highlighted by victories over three ranked opponents. BYU stunned No. 1 Stanford Friday 15-9, 13-15, 15-6, 15-8, and came back for a five-game win over No. 2 Long Beach State (15-17, 12-15, 15-13, 15-1, 15-6) the next night to win the Mizuno Classic Championship in Provo. The Cougars started the week with a 15-9, 9-15, 15-10, 15-4 win over No. 20 Kansas State Tuesday, and recorded three-game victories over Oral Roberts (15-7, 15-8, 15-3) and Fairfield (15-9, 15-4, 15-3) in the Mizuno Classic. Puikkonen was named the Mizuno Classic Most Valuable Player after racking up 71 kills, 34 blocks and 36 digs.