BYU Faces Wyoming to Open MWC Tournament Thursday

PROVO -- After finishing the conference regular season with a pair of road wins last week, the No. 13 BYU women's volleyball team will enter the 2000 McLeodUSA Mountain West Conference Tournament as the second seed and will play seventh-seeded Wyoming Thursday at 11 a.m. in the Moby Arena in Ft. Collins, Colo.

Thursday's match will be televised on KSL-TV at 11 a.m. Should the Cougars advance in the tournament, subsequent BYU matches would also be aired locally, with Friday's 4 p.m. semifinal match scheduled for KBYU-TV and Saturday's MWC championship match set to be tape-delayed at 11 p.m. on KSL-TV.

The winner of BYU's first round match will play Friday against the winner of the Utah-UNLV match also played on Thursday. The championship match will be played Saturday at 4 p.m.

With a 20-6 overall record, the Cougars have extended their consecutive seasons with 20 or more wins to 27. The Cougars enter the tournament, hosted by Colorado State, with a seven-match winning streak and a 12-2 conference record. The winning streak includes wins over top-seeded Colorado State, who is currently ranked No. 4 in the country, and third-seeded Utah, currently ranked 19th in the nation. BYU's conference losses were at Colorado State and Utah.

BYU is 46-3 all time against the Cowgirls in a series that dates back to 1972. The Cougars won both matches against the Cowgirls this season. On Sept. 30 in Laramie, Wyo., the Cougars defeated Wyoming 15-8, 15-12, 15-3. The Cougars beat Wyoming 13-15, 15-1, 15-5, 15-11 in the Smith Fieldhouse on Oct. 27. This will be the third consecutive year BYU has faced the Cowgirls to open the conference tournament.

The Cougars have advanced to the conference tournament finals in each of the four years that a tournament has been in place. The Cougars won the first two Western Athletic Conference Tournament titles in 1996 and 1997 before losing in the final WAC title game in 1998. BYU was defeated at home by Colorado State in last year's inaugural MWC Tournament title match.

Notables from Last Week

• In its final conference road trip before the Mountain West Conference Tournament, the No. 14 BYU women's volleyball team defeated a pair of conference opponents improving its record to 12-2 in the conference. The 12-2 record gives the Cougars the second seed in this week's tournament behind No. 5 Colorado State.

• The Cougars finished the week with a team hitting percentage of .427 in the two matches. Against the Lobos, BYU hit .394 and the Cougars finished at .462 against the Falcons.

• The Cougars have now won seven straight matches, which is their longest streak of the season. Their last loss was Oct. 18 at Pepperdine, 10-15, 16-14, 12-15, 9-15. They have won nine straight conference matches, including home wins over No. 5 Colorado State and No. 19 Utah.

• BYU will play in the opening match of the conference tournament against 7th-seeded Wyoming Thursday at 11 a.m. The Cougars are 2-0 against the Cowgirls in both matches this season. The Cougars have a .291 team hitting percentage and held Wyoming to a .078 hitting percentage in the two previous matches.

BYU's Conference Tournament History

Western Athletic Conference

1996 (Las Vegas, Nev.)

First Round: BYU def. Colorado St. (11-15, 15-9, 15-3, 15-11)

Second Round: BYU def. San Diego St. (9-15, 15-13, 15-13, 15-11)

Championship: BYU def. Hawai'i (6-15, 15-11, 15-13, 16-18, 15-8)#

1997 (Las Vegas, Nev.)

First Round: BYU def. San Jose St. (15-9, 15-10, 15-8)

Second Round: BYU def. San Diego St. (15-13, 15-4, 15-10)

Championship: BYU def. Hawai'i (15-6, 15-6, 15-8)#

1998 (Las Vegas, Nev.)

First Round: BYU def. Wyoming. (15-13, 15-5, 15-3)

Second Round: BYU def. UNLV (15-12, 15-10, 15-6)

Championship: BYU lost to Hawai'i (12-15, 19-21, 15-13, 18-16, 22-24)#

Mountain West Conference

1999 (Provo, Utah)

First Round: BYU def. Wyoming (15-1, 15-1, 15-11)

Second Round: BYU def. New Mexico (15-1, 15-0, 15-9)

Championship: BYU lost to Colorado St. (8-15, 8-15, 12-15)#


Nina Puikkonen • Jr • MB

She leads the MWC in kills (4.30) and aces (0.43) is second in the MWC in blocks (1.68) and is third in hitting (.369) in conference matches ... has been named MWC Player of the Week three times this season and was named AVCA National Player of the Week once this season ... has recorded double-digit kills in 22 of 26 matches ... had 20 or more kills in three matches, including a season-high 25 kills against LBSU ... had a team-high six double-doubles and one triple-doubles (vs. Utah) ... overall, has a team-best 4.14 kpg, .354 hitting percentage, 0.41 aces per games and 1.76 bpg.

Karina Puikkonen • Fr • S

She is second in the MWC in assists (12.67) in conference matches ... has recorded three double-doubles ... had a career-high nine kills vs. Pepperdine, narrowly missing a triple-double ... overall, she is second on the team in hitting (.337) and is averaging 12.84 assists and 1.44 digs per game.

Jackie Bundy • Jr • MB

She is fourth in the MWC in blocking (1.48) and fifth in hitting (.316) in conference matches ... has double-digit kills in 13 of 26 matches, including 7 of last 9 ... has double-digit digs in 5 matches, including 2 of the last 3 ... had a BYU season-best 14 blocks at Notre Dame ... had 3 double-doubles.

Sunny Tonga • So • RS

She is fourth in the MWC in hitting (.331), eighth in aces (0.35) and ninth in kills (3.28) in conference matches ... had 17 double-digit kill matches, including the last three ... had three double-doubles ... had more than 20 kills twice, including a career-best 21 vs. LBSU ... named MWC Player of the Week once ... overall, is second on the team in kills (3.29) and third in hitting (.327) ... averages 1.74 dpg, 1.05 bpg

Kalani Tonga • Jr • OH

She is fifth in the MWC in digs (2.70) and ninth in aces (0.34) in conference matches ... had three double-doubles ... six double-digit kills and seven double-digit dig matches, including 2 of the last 3 ... had a season-high 13 kills and 18 digs ... overall, averages 2.30 kills and 2.70 digs.

Melissa Layton • Sr • OH

She is tied for third in the MWC in aces (0.39) in conference matches ... she is tied for first in the MWC in aces (0.41) in all matches ... had 10 double-digit kill matches and five double-digit dig matches ... had one double-double ... had 15 or more kills four times, including a career-high 19 kills at Pepperdine.


One, Two, Three ...

With BYU's dominating three-game win over No. 3 Colorado State on Oct. 28 (15-1, 15-4, 15-11), the Cougars have now defeated a No. 1-, No. 2- and No. 3-ranked team this season with wins over Stanford, Long Beach State and the Rams.

BYU Plays Nation's Best

BYU's win over No. 20 Utah on Nov. 3 marked the ninth time this season the Cougars have played a team ranked in the top 20 (5-4 record, with other wins over Stanford, LBSU, Colorado State and Kansas State). BYU has also played two other teams, both losses, who were not ranked at the time but have since moved into the top 25 (Notre Dame and Utah State). BYU also defeated then No. 27 Clemson. The Cougars still face No. 14 UC Santa Barbara.

Double-Double Club

Nina Puikkonen, who has earned AVCA Sports Imports National Player of the Week and three Mountain West Conference Player of the Week honors this year, has recorded a team-leading five double-doubles this year. She last accomplished the feat with 14 kills and a season-high 16 digs at Pepperdine. Puikkonen also recorded a triple-double (the second of her career) against Utah Nov. 3 in Provo. She finished the night with 22 kills, 18 digs and 10 blocks in the 3-1 win. Puikkonen has had double-digit kills in 22 of 26 matches this year, double-figures blocks three times and two-digit digs four times. Jackie Bundy, Karina Puikkonen and Kalani and Sunny Tonga each have three double-doubles.


BYU has a seven-match winning streak and has won nine straight at home. The seven-match winning streak is the longest of the season for the Cougars. The Cougars had a five-match winning streak earlier in the season that was ended when they lost back-to-back matches for the first time since 1997.

Game Points

In its 23 matches, BYU had won 64 of 89 games. BYU has scored double-digit points in 78 of its 89 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 364 kills (4.14 kpg) this season to bring her career total to 1,176 in two-plus seasons. She needs 14 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 155 blocks this year while ranking third in the nation with a 1.76 average per game. She has moved from fifth into third on the all-time BYU blocks list with 590 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 861-215-5 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 women's 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 12.84 assists per game (2nd in MWC) while hitting .337 (second on the team) with 1.36 kills per game. She also adds 1.44 digs and 0.95 blocks and has had 25 service aces. She has distributed the ball well with all five BYU hitters averaging at least 2.44 kills per game.

All-Tournament Honors

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.

BYU in the National Polls

BYU, who has been ranked in the USA Today/AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 poll the seventh most times (224 weeks) of all teams in the nation, joined Colorado State of the MWC by spending the entire 1999 season ranked in the USA Today/AVCA Division I Coaches Poll, finishing the season rated 13th (CSU finished at No. 12) The Mountain West Conference joined the Pac-10, Big West and Big 12 as the only leagues to place multiple teams in the top-15. BYU has been ranked No. 1 on four occasions. Below is the list of where the Cougars have been ranked each week this year.

Date Rank

PS 15

9/5 17

9/12 10

9/19 15

9/26 14

10/3 13

10/10 17

10/17 16

10/23 16

10/30 14

11/6 14

11/13 13