PROVO -- BYU hosts the Ivy League champion Princeton Tigers in the first round of the 1999 NCAA Volleyball Tournament Friday at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse. The Cougars and Tigers play the second match of the day following a 5 p.m. match between Arizona State (14-12) of the Pac-10 and Wisconsin (21-9) of the Big Ten. Friday's winners will meet in the second round Saturday at 7 p.m., also in the Smith Fieldhouse.
Cougars in the NCAA
The Cougars are making their 10th straight NCAA Tournament appearance and their 18th in the 19 years of the tournament. Only four schools, Stanford, Penn State, Pacific and UC Santa Barbara have been to the tournament more years than the Cougars. BYU has advanced to the regional finals in each of the last three years. The Cougars played in the Final Four in 1993, losing to Penn State in the semifinals.
A Quick Look at the Cougars
BYU has won 12 of its last 13 matches and 20 of its last 22. The Cougars won 39 of their 43 games during the Mountain West Conference regular season on the way to a 13-1 record and regular season title. BYU has won 19 of their 26 matches in three games. All four Cougar losses have been in three games and come against NCAA Tournament participants Michigan, Stanford, and Colorado State (twice). BYU's 28-match home win streak was broken last week when Colorado State defeated BYU for the MWC tournament title. The Cougars are 4-0 in four-game matches and 3-0 in five-game contests. BYU has reached the 25-win plateau for the fourth straight year and the ninth time in the last 10 years (1995- 21-9 record). BYU has never had a losing season and has won 20 or more matches in each of the last 26 seasons (1973-74 - 18-3 record).
Last Week for BYU
BYU had its 28-match home win streak broken by No. 11 Colorado State last Saturday in the MWC tournament title game. Prior to the 0-3 loss to the Rams, BYU earned a spot in the tournament finals with two three games wins over Wyoming and New Mexico.
This is the second meeting between BYU and Princeton. The hold a 1-0 lead in the series with a win during the 1975 AIAW National Tournament. The Cougars have a 20-4 record against Arizona State, including a 7-15, 15-9, 15-10, 15-2 win this year in Tempe. BYU is 0-1 against Wisconsin, losing to the Badgers 10-15, 13-15, 5-15 at the 1990 Nebraska Invitational in Lincoln.
Scouting Princeton (19-6, 6-1 Ivy League)
Junior Sabrina King was named Ivy League Player of the Year and Ivy Tournament MVP after leading Princeton to its 11th Ivy championship. She finished third in the league in kills/game (4.03) and first in digs/game (4.38). Senior co-captain Melissa Ford was named first-team All-Ivy and to the Ivy League all-tournament team. This is the third time in her career she has been honored in the Ivy League (1996, HM; 1998, second-team). She finished the season with 12.11 assists/game, second-best in the league. Brown sends it down- Junior Emily Brown led the Ivy League with a .358 attack percentage. The next closest player in the league had a .314 hitting percentage. Freshman Michelle Buffum was named co-Ivy League Rookie of the Year. She is the first Princeton Tiger to receive this honor. Princeton coach Glenn Nelson is the only collegiate volleyball coach to lead both a women's and men's team to the NCAA tournament in the same year (1997-98).
Scouting Arizona State (14-12, 10-8 Pac-10)
ASU is making its 12th NCAA postseason appearance in 1999, its fifth under head coach Patti Snyder-Park. Junior outside hitter Amanda Burbridge needs just 11 kills to reach the1,000 kills mark for her career. She would become only the 11th player in ASU history to reach the milestone. Five Sun Devils have recorded 20 or more service aces this season. The last time five players had 20 or more service aces was in 1992. As a team, Arizona State has recorded 156 aces, the most since 1993 when they tallied 178. Senior middle blocker Laura Hibsman is currently in seventh for career block assists at ASU with 257. She needs one block assist to move into sixth to tie Kirstin Mattson (1993-97).
Scouting Wisconsin (21-9, 14-6 Big Ten)
The Badgers are making their fourth consecutive and eighth overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin is 10-7 in the tournament with their best finishes coming in 1997 and 1998 when it advanced to the finals of the regionals (elite eight). First-year Wisconsin volleyball coach Pete Waite has appeared in the NCAA Tournament four times while the head coach at Northern Illinois. The Huskies were 3-4 under Waite in the NCAAs. The Badgers finished third in the 1999 Big Ten Conference standings with a 14-6 mark. Wisconsin has finished among the top four teams in the league the last four years. Wisconsin wrapped up the 1999 regular season with a 21-9 record, its sixth-consecutive 20-win season. Last week, Wisconsin dropped a 1-3 match at No. 1 Penn State on Friday and came back to edge Ohio State, 3-2, on Saturday. Junior Jenny Maastricht leads the team with 3.81 kills per game while sophomore Sherisa Livingston and senior Kelly Kennedy add 3.67 and 3.38 kills per game, respectively. Livingston leads the team with a .320 hitting percentage.
Puikkonen Named MWC Player of the Year
Sophomore middle blocker Nina Puikkonen headlines the first-ever All-Mountain West Conference Volleyball Team as the unanimous choice by the coaches for player-of-the-year honors. Puikkonen ranks fourth in the nation and led BYU with a 1.95 blocks per game average and topped the conference with a 1.90 average in league matches. Her 378 total kills led the Cougars while her conference average of 4.07 kills in league matches listed her among the top-three in the conference the entire season. She hit an impressive .370 in league matches and finished the regular-season hitting .355 overall.
Five Cougars Earn MWC Honors
In addition to sophomore Nina Puikkonen earning her second first-team all-conference award, senior outside hitter Caroline Bower and senior setter Anna-Lena Smith were named to the All-MWC First Team. Smith has earned first-team honors in each of her four seasons as a Cougar while Bower earned the distinction for the first time. Senior Mari Carpenter earned second-team honors for the second straight year while Sunny Tonga was named the MWC Freshman of the Year. This year, Smith and Tonga also put themselves in BYU's record book as Smith set BYU's all-time assist record and Tonga established the single-match attack percentage record.
Now in her 38th year at the helm of the BYU program, Elaine Michaelis also enters her fifth year as Director of Women's Athletics. A proven winner, Michaelis is second all-time in Division I victories with an 838-208-5 record (since records were kept in 1969) and has the most wins ever by a female coach. With this year's Mountain West Conference regular season title, she has the distinction of winning the inaugural championship in each of thefive leagues BYU has belonged to since starting to play volleyball. Last year, Michaelis reached the milestone of 800 victories while coaching the Cougars to their third straight NCAA Regional Final. Michaelis, whose 31-4 record last year marked the eighth time she has recorded more than 30 victories in a season. With her 25 wins this year, she has 26 straight 20-win seasons.