PROVO -- After three straight road matches, BYU's women's volleyball team returns home to host conference opponents Air Force and New Mexico Friday and Saturday at the Smith Fieldhouse. Both matches begin at 7 p.m. Fans at Friday's match can also get an early V.I.P. pass for BYU Basketball's Midnight Madness later that evening.
Ranked 17th (AVCA/USA Today) and 18th (Volleyball magazine) in the national polls, BYU has lost two of its last three matches, all on the road, but is 9-1 at home. The Cougars fell from 13th and 11th national rankings last week after losing to Utah for the first time since 1995.
The Cougars are 11-5 overall and 3-2 in the Mountain West Conference while Air Force stands at 6-10 and 0-5 and New Mexico is 7-8 and 3-2. The Lobos and Cougars are currently in a three-way tie with San Diego State for third place in the conference standings.
BYU's match with Air Force will be televised live at 7 p.m. Friday on KBYU-TV and BYU-TV, available on the Dish Network, system 500.
BYU has never lost to the Falcons in only four matches and is 46-7 overall against the Lobos. The Cougars have a 10-match winning streak against New Mexico dating back to 1995 when the Lobos last beat BYU in Provo (3-0).
Scouting Air Force
Air Force Falcons (6-10, 0-5 MWC)
Head Coach: Penny Lucas-White
Overall Record: 136-170 (10th year)
School Record: 41-90 (5th year)
Â• The Falcons will face their first ranked opponents this weekend when they travel to No. 17 BYU and No. 15 Utah. Air Force is 0-4 vs. BYU and 0-4 vs. Utah all time.
Â• Freshman Delavane Diaz is entering the fourth straight week as the conference leader in kills per game (4.26). She also ranks second in digs per game (3.22).
Â• Diaz became just the second freshman to earn MWC Player of the Week honors Sept. 17 after helpingthe Falcons win the Air Force Classic.
Â• With senior Shaylor Billings no longer playing, Air Force does not have a single starter returning from last years 17-12 team that finished tied for fourth in conference play with a 5-9 record.
Â• The Falcons are hitting .169 as a team while allowing a .194 average.
Scouting New Mexico
New Mexico Lobos (7-8, 3-2 MWC)
Head Coach: Laurel Brassey Iversen
Overall Record: 287-201 (17th year)
School Record: 287-201 (17th year)
Â• New Mexico is 7-1 this season when holding the opposition under a .200 hitting percentage. Junior Jessie Goffard recorded a league-high eighth double-double of the season against conference rival Wyoming with 15 kills and 18 digs. Senior Micaela Conley notched a career highs of three service aces against Wyoming and 20 digs (also team season high). Conley picked up her sixth double-double of the season with 13 kills and 20 digs.
Â• UNM tied a Lobo season match high and set a conference three-game record with 76 digs against the Cowgirls of Wyoming. Freshman Lynzie Hayes hit a season best .750 hitting percentage against CSU with three kills and no errors in four attempts.
Â• UNM, which dropped a three-game set to No. 3 Colorado State Saturday, is tied with BYU and SDSU in the conference race.
ADDITIONAL BYU NOTES
BYU Suffers Rare Conference Defeat
BYU's loss last week was its first to Utah since 1995 and marks the first time since 1995 that the Cougars have suffered more than one regular season conference defeat. In the last four conference seasons, BYU has finished with records of 13-1, 13-1, 13-1 and 15-1, respectively, either winning the league or claiming a share of first-place.
Last Week Summary
BYU's nine-match winning streak against rival Utah came to an end last Friday as the Cougars suffered a three-game loss to the then 16th-ranked Utes, 15-5, 15-8, 15-7, at Crimson Court. The loss was BYU's first to Utah since 1995 and marked the first match this season in which BYU failed to have a player record double-digit kills and the team failed to record double-digit points in at least one game. BYU allowed Utah a .276 hitting percentage -- the second highest percentage by a BYU opponent this season (Arizona .356) while BYU's usually potent offensive attack, ranked 15th in the nation coming into the match, was held to a season-low .034 hitting percentage. Nina Puikkonen had the Cougar high percentage of .136 with a team-best (and personal season low) seven kills in 22 attempts (four errors). Three starters hit .000 or below. Puikkonen added a team-best nine digs and four blocks. BYU also had a season low of 33 kills. Sophomore Sunny Tonga led the Cougars with nine kills but only hit .080 in 25 attempts.
BYU Plays Nation's Best
BYU's match at Utah last Friday was the sixth time this season the Cougars have played a team ranked in the top 20 (3-3 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). BYU also defeated then No. 27 Clemson. The Cougars still have matches with No. 5 Pepperdine, No. 14 UC Santa Barbara and return dates with No. 15 Utah and No. 3 Colorado State on their schedule.
Puikkonen Moving Up Career Charts
It took junior middle blocker Nina Puikkonen just 270 games to top 1,000 kills, a career average of 3.79 kpg. The Cougar co-captain has 217 kills (3.88 kpg) this season to bring her career total to 1,029 in two-plus seasons. She needs 162 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 102 blocks this year while leading the nation with a 1.82 average per game. She has moved from fifth into third on the all-time BYU blocks list with 537 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 852-214-5 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 12.40 assists per game (2nd in MWC) while hitting .316 with 1.27 kills per game. She also adds 1.29 digs and 1.05 blocks (7th in MWC) per game and has had 15 aces. She has distributed the ball well with all five BYU hitters averaging at least 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, Melissa Layton and Karina Puikkonen each have one double-double. Bundy and Layton 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). Karina Puikkonen had 56 assists and 11 digs vs. Stanford.
BYU is coming off a road loss, and has lost two of its last three overall to end a four match win streak. BYU maintains that four-match win streak at home entering this week. The Cougars are 1-4 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.
BYU failed to reach double-digit points in at least one game of a match for the first time this season while totaling 5, 8 and 7 points against the Utes. BYU's usually potent offensive attack, ranked 15th in the nation coming into the match, was held to a season-low .034 hitting percentage against Utah. Nina Puikkonen had the Cougar high percentage of .136 and three starters hit .000 or below. BYU also had a season low of 33 kills as no Cougar was able to muster double figures. Nina Puikkonen was one of two Cougars to have a season low individually in kills, equalled her season low of seven, while three others suffered their second lowest offensive outputs of the season. Sophomore Sunny Tonga led the Cougars with nine kills but only hit .080 in 25 attempts. The match was the first this season in which BYU failed to have a player record double-digit kills.
With its loss at Utah last week, BYU has equaled its loss total of last year when the Cougars compiled a 28-5 record while advancing to the NCAA regional semifinals. BYU has not lost more than nine matches in a season in the 1990s (31-4, 1998; 29-6, 1997; 27-7, 1996; 21-9, 1995; 25-4, 1994; 29-3, 1993; 29-4, 1992; 26-5, 1991; 26-8, 1990).
BYU on the Road
BYU got its first true away win of the season Saturday at Wyoming. BYU is now 1-4 in away matches and 1-0 in neutral site contests.
In its 16 matches, BYU had won 36 of 56 games. BYU has scored double-digit points in 46 of its 56 games (in 10 of 20 games lost).
Cougars among Statistical Leaders
BYU is second in the nation in blocking in the last NCAA rankings. The Cougars are the top Mountain West Conference team in blocking (3.63 bpg) and aces (1.84 sapg) and are second in kills (16.14 kpg), hitting percentage (.262) and assists (14.30 apg). BYU is last in digs (11.54). Individually, Nina Puikkonen leads the nation and conference in blocking (1.82 bpg). She ranks fourth in kills (3.88 kpg), fifth in hitting (.333) and eighth in aces (0.36 sapg). Karina Puikkonen is second in the MWC in assists (12.40 apg) and seventh in blocking (1.05 bpg). Melissa Layton is third in the conference in aces (0.48 sapg) while Sunny Tonga rates sixth in hitting (.322). Kalani Tonga is 11th in aces (0.34). Jackie Bundy is rated fourth among MWC blockers (1.45 bpg).
BYU ranks second nationally in blocking (3.63 bpg) behind No. 1 Nebraska. The Cougars 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 1.82 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 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 and Utah each had nine blocks last week. BYU has recorded double-digit blocks as a team in 10 of its 16 matches. Four Cougars average one or more blocks per game.