BYU Hosts Nation's No.1 and No. 2 at Mizuno Classic

Beginning its 2000 home schedule this week by playing five matches in four days, the No. 17-ranked BYU women's volleyball team hosts three top-20 teams, including No. 1-ranked Stanford and No. 2-rated Long Beach State. The No. 17 Cougars defeated No. 20 Kansas State Tuesday, 3-1, in the Smith Fieldhouse and now prepares for the BYU Mizuno Classic Thursday through Saturday. Teams participating in the tournament include No. 1-ranked Stanford, No. 2 Long Beach State, Metro Atlantic champion Fairfield and Mid-Continent champion Oral Roberts. Including BYU, the five Mizuno Classic teams each earned NCAA tournament berths last year while posting a combined 115-24 (.827) record. Stanford and Long Beach State advanced to the NCAA Final Four.

BYU Mizuno Classic Schedule

George Albert Smith Fieldhouse (5,000) • Provo, Utah

Thursday, Sept. 7

Stanford vs. Fairfield • 5 p.m.

BYU vs. Oral Roberts • 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 8

Fairfield vs. Oral Roberts • 11 a.m.

Oral Roberts vs. Long Beach State • 5 p.m.

No. 17 BYU vs. No. 1 Stanford • 7 p.m. • KBYU-TV, BYU-TV

Saturday, Sept. 9

BYU vs. Fairfield • Noon

Stanford vs. Oral Roberts • 5 p.m.

No. 17 BYU vs. No. 2 Long Beach State • 7 p.m.

Broadcast Information

Saturday's BYU match against Stanford will be broadcast live on KBYU-TV channel 11 and on BYU-TV (Dish Network, system 500). The game can also be heard on the Internet from Stanford's KZSU radio broadcast by going to realaudio.stanford.edu.

Quoting Coach Elaine Michaelis

"Needless to say, this year's field is one of the strongest to ever play in the BYU Mizuno Classic. Playing the best teams in the preseason helps us prepare to be our best. These matches will be challenging for our team because we are young at some critical positions but we have two All-Americans returning and overall we have progressed better than expected this early in the season."

Cougar Preview

The Cougars enter the Mizuno Classic with a 2-1 record after defeating Kansas State Tuesday. 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. Five athletes with significant experience return and several other returners and newcomers who should help the Cougars 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 inexperience at the setter position is the team's biggest question mark after losing all-time assist leader Anna-Lena Smith to graduation. Headlining the Cougar roster in 2000 is two-time All-American middle blocker Nina Puikkonen. Leading the nation as a freshman and finishing third nationally last year in blocking, Puikkonen is a dominating presence in the middle. 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). 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. A versatile athlete and powerful hitter, the 6-2 Tonga will play rightside for the Cougars in 2000. She finished fourth in the MWC last year in hitting with a .346 attack percentage, which included a BYU single-match record .909 (10-0-11) hitting percentage at Wyoming.

Glance at Last Week

BYU opened the season last week on the road at the Notre Dame Shamrock Invitational, defeating No. 27 Clemson 3-0 Friday before losing a five-game match to No. 28 and tournament host Notre Dame Saturday. The Cougars are now 9-1 vs. the Atlantic Coast Conference and 7-1 vs. the Big East Conference. In its loss to the Irish, BYU outperformed Notre Dame in most statistical categories but dropped the final three games after taking the first two. BYU hit .213 to Notre Dame's .163, had nine aces to the Irish's five, recorded 20 blocks compared to 11 and had just one less dig with 62 to Notre Dame's 63. In BYU's two matches, the Cougars hit .250 and averaged 13.50 kills and 3.56 blocks per game while holding its opponents to a .l64 attack percentage, 11.62 kills and 1.81 blocks per contest.

All-Tournament Honors

Senior Melissa Layton, junior Nina Puikkonen and sophomore Sunny Tonga were named to the Shamrock Invitational All-Tournament Team last week.

Sunny Sophomore Beginning

After being named a Freshman All-American by Volleyball magazine last season, rightside hitter Sunny Tonga got her sophomore season off to an All-American caliber start with a team-leading .412 hitting percentage and 28 kills (3.50 kills per game average). She also came up with 18 digs (2.25 dpg), just one off the team-best 19 of Melissa Layton.

Fresh Start at Setter

Redshirt freshman Karina Puikkonen had 31 assists, three aces, two blocks and four kills (.375 hitting) in her first collegiate match vs. Clemson. She had 41 assists, eight blocks, six digs and four kills against Notre Dame. She distributed the ball well in Tuesday's win over Kansas State, tossing up 67 assists while helping five Cougars record double-digit kills.

Bests Worth Noting

Junior middle blocker Jackie Bundy had a career-best 14 blocks (2 bs/12 ba) vs. Notre Dame while senior outside hitter Melissa Layton had a career-high five aces vs. Clemson. Sunny Tonga set a new high with 18 kills and 13 digs vs. Notre Dame. Tuesday, Layton added another career best with 17 kills.

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 843-210-5 record (since records were kept in 1969) and has the most wins ever by a female coach. With last year's Mountain West Conference 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 concluded her first season in the new Mountain West Conference with a 13-1 record to improve her overall conference ledger to an incredible 334-31 -- a .915 winning percentage. With a 28-5 overall record in 1999, Michaelis posted her 26th consecutive 20-win season and her 28th in 31 years. She has never had a losing season. In 1999, her Cougar squad advanced to the NCAA East Regional Semifinals -- the fourth straight year she has guided BYU to the round of 16. She coached BYU to wins over No. 10 Pepperdine, No. 12 Colorado State, No. 14 Arizona, No. 23 Wisconsin and No. 29 Utah (twice) last year will suffering losses to No. 2 Stanford, No. 5 Florida, No. 12 Colorado State (twice) and NCAA tournament-qualifying Michigan. The Cougars' foray into the NCAA tournament was their 18th in the 19-year history of NCAA control of the sport. It also marked the 28th time BYU has participated in a national tournament. BYU's run to the NCAA regional semifinals improved Michaelis' national tournament record to 71-42 (.628).

Scouting Kansas State • Ranked No. 20

BYU is now 2-0 against Kansas State with the previous win being a 3-0 win in Provo in the 1998 NCAA tournament second round. The 3-2 Wildcats enter have wins over Utah State (3-2), Gonzaga (3-0) and Rhode Island (3-0) and a loss to host Washington State (2-3) at the Washington State Invitational last week. Kansas State returns five starters and eight letterwinners from last year's 21-9 team that earned a No. 19 national ranking in the final poll after advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Kansas State is coached by Jim McLaughlin (205-110 overall record in 11th season; 63-35 in fourth year at KSU).

Scouting Oral Roberts • Defending Mid-Continent Conference Champions

BYU holds a 1-0 series advantage over Oral Roberts with the prior meeting taking place at the 1997 BYU Mizuno Classic (a 3-0 BYU win). The Golden Eagles enter this year's invitational with a 1-3 record with a win over Wichita State and losses to Missouri and Arkansas-Little Rock last week and a loss Monday at No. 4 Nebraska. Oral Roberts returns four starters and 10 letterwinners from last year's 23-13 Mid-Continent Conference champions. The Golden Eagles are coached by Amy Farber-Knowles (88-60 overall record in fifth season; 82-32 in fourth year at Oral Roberts).

Scouting Stanford • Ranked No. 1 (1999 NCAA Runner-up)

This will be the 10th meeting between BYU and Stanford with the Cougars trailing the series 2-7. Stanford has won the last three matches, including last year's 3-0 win at home in the Pac-10/Mountain West Challenge. BYU's last win was a 3-1 home win in 1987. The No. 1-ranked Cardinal entered the week with a 3-0 record prior to an upset loss at Utah Tuesday. Stanford has wins over Drake, Portland State and New Mexico, all in three games, at the New Mexico-Comcast Invitational last week. This year's team returns four starters and 10 letterwinners from last year's NCAA runner-up squad that earned a 31-3 record. Stanford will be without the services of All-American and National Freshman of the Year Logan Tom, who is currently playing on the U.S. Olympic team in Sydney, Australia. Tom, a Salt Lake City native and Highland High teammate of BYU's Carrie Bowers, is joined on the Olympic team by former Stanford teammate and 1999 National Co-Player of the Year Kerri Walsh and former BYU setter Charlene Johnson Tagaloa. Stanford is coached this year by assistant coach Denise Corlett, who is in her first year while head coach Don Shaw is on sabbatical.

Scouting Fairfield • Defending Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Champions

This will be the first match between BYU and Fairfield. Fairfield, who also played at the Shamrock Invitational last week but did not face the Cougars, like BYU has a 1-1 record entering the week after a loss at Notre Dame and a win over Clemson. The Stags return three starters and seven letterwinners from last year's 30-4 team that won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Fairfield is coached by Mitch Jacobs (138-92 overall record in eighth season; 31-45 in second year at Fairfield).

Scouting Long Beach State • Ranked No. 2 (1999 NCAA Final Four team)

The Cougars trail the series with Long Beach State 4-12 with the 49ers having won the last seven matches, including a 3-1 win in Provo in the last meeting in 1998 -- the year the 49ers won the national championship. BYU's last win was a 3-2 victory at the UCLA NIT in 1986. The No. 2 49ers enter the week with a 4-0 record and play at home Thursday vs. Temple before coming to Provo. The 49ers have a home win vs. Saint Mary's and road wins at Navy, American and Georgetown. Long Beach State returns three starters and 10 letterwinners from last year's NCAA Final Four team that earned a 31-4 record. Top returners include talented middle blockers Tayyiba Haneef (6-foot-6 junior) and Cheryl Weaver (6-foot-2 junior). The 49ers are coached by Brian Gimmillaro (429-97 overall record in his 16th season, all with Long Beach State).

Notables from Last Year's Cougars

1999 Summary

Finishing with a 28-5 record, BYU tied for ninth in the NCAA tournament and placed 13th (AVCA) and ninth (Volleyball magazine) in the final polls. All five 1999 Cougar losses came against NCAA tournament teams (Michigan, eventual NCAA runner-up Stanford, No. 12 Colorado State (twice) and No. 5 Florida). Recording a 13-1 conference mark, BYU won the inaugural Mountain West Conference title suffering its lone loss at Colorado State, who also upset the Cougars in the MWC Tournament Finals in Provo to end a string of 12 straight BYU wins. Ranked as high as eighth, BYU also set a new Smith Fieldhouse attendance mark with 3,553 fans at its 3-2 win over No. 10 Pepperdine. BYU rated third in blocking and sixth in hitting nationally.