PROVO, Utah, (Sept. 14, 1999) -- Riding a four-match road winning streak, BYU will play its first home matches of the year this weekend when it takes on in-state rival Utah State and No. 10 Pepperdine. The Cougars, 4-1 and ranked No. 9 by Volleyball magazine and No. 12 in the AVCA/USA Today preseason poll, face the -2 Aggies Friday at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse before taking on nationally ranked Pepperdine, 5-0, at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Utah State match will be aired live on KBYU-TV Channel 11.
A Look at the Cougars
After opening the year with a closely contested three-game loss to Michigan, BYU has won four straight matches - including last week's perfect record with 3-0 wins over Houston and Loyola Marymount. For each of the past three seasons, BYU has come within one victory of making its second trip to the NCAA Final Four, something it did in 1993. BYU has eight letterwinners returning from last year's 31-4 team, including All-American setter Anna-Lena Smith and all-conference performers Nina Puikkonen (middle blocker), Melissa Layton (rightside hitter) and Mari Carpenter (outside hitter).
Quote from Coach Elaine Michaelis
We'd like to build on the progress of last week. Our offense has made giant steps forward but we need to play better defense. Utah State has been very competitive against some good teams, including nationally ranked San Diego. Tom (Peterson) is a proven coach. We are excited to play a quality ranked team in Pepperdine. They have a lot of height and we match up well because of our height. It should come down to who has good ball control.
1999: 4-1 (0-0 home; 2-0 away; 2-1 neutral)
All-time : 817-205-5 (since records kept in 1969)
Coach Michaelis: same
Cougars on KBYU
Friday's match with Utah State will be the first of six BYU women's volleyball matches to be broadcast on KBYU-TV Channel 11. Brandon Fullmer will be calling the play-by-play and will be joined by former Cougar All-American and U.S. National Team player Amy Steele Gant as the commentator and analyst. Friday's match will be aired live starting at 7 p.m.
Series with the Aggies
This will be BYU's 53rd meeting with Utah State. The Cougars hold a 44-8 advantage in the series dating back to 1970. BYU is 19-1 at home against the Aggies and has a streak of 28 straight wins against the Aggies. Utah State's last victory was the last of eight straight wins for the Aggies from 1977-1980. Their last win was a 3-1 victory in Logan in 1980. Utah State's lone victory in Provo was a 3-0 win in 1979. Last year BYU defeated the Aggies 3-1 in Logan in the only meeting between the two rivals.
Scouting Utah State
The Aggies are 1-2 on the year but have been very competitive in losses to nationally ranked San Diego and a good San Jose State team. The Aggies are coming off a home win over Portland State. Coach Tom Peterson, a 1978 BYU graduate, returns all six of his starters from last year's 8-22 team and nine letterwinners in all. The Aggies are hitting .274 as a team and are led by outside hitter Melissa Schoepf who is averaging 3 kills per game.
Series with the Waves
This will be BYU's 16th meeting with Pepperdine. The Cougars hold an 11-4 advantage in the series dating back to 1976. BYU is 7-1 at home against the Waves but lost the last match at home, a 3-2 Pepperdine win at the 1996 BYU Mizuno Classic. This will be the fourth meeting in the 1990s. BYU gained a home victory in 1992 (3-0) and a neutral court win in 1991 (3-1).
Pepperdine is ranked No. 10 and enters the week with a perfect 5-0 record, including a 3-0 win at Michigan, who gave BYU its lone loss. The Waves have only dropped one game this year, a 10-15 setback during a 3-1 opening match win over Arizona State. Pepperdine is hitting .299 as a team and is led by middle blocker Jamie Hill and outside hitter Stacy Rouwenhorst, who are averaging 4.50 and 4.06 kills per game respectively.
Smith Named Mountain West Co-Player of the Week
Anna Lena Smith and Air Force's Shaylor Billings (Jr., MB) were selected as the MWC Volleyball Co-Players of the Week last week. An all-tournament selection at the Loyola Marymount Invitational, Smith averaged 14.69 assists per game as she distributed the attack to help teammates Mari Carpenter (Sr., OH) and Nina Puikkonen (So., MB) also earn all-tournament recognition. Against Houston, Smith recorded 43 assists and put away six kills of her own for a .559 attack percentage (6-1-9). Smith countered LMU's middle-focused block by setting up outside hitters Carpenter and Caroline Bower with 17 and 13 kills respectively, while mixing in 16 kills to Puikkonen in the middle. Smith was chosen the team's MVP for the week by the BYU coaches and players. This is the second such award for Smith, who earned the WAC award in 1996 (Oct. 1-6). On the year, she is averaging 14 assists and needs just 520 more to surpass current U.S. National Team setter Charlene Johnson Tagaloa atop BYU's all-time assists list.
Puikkonen a Dominating Presence in the Middle
In the past five years, no one has averaged more blocks per game than Nina Puikkonen did in her freshman season. Puikkonen, a Volleyball magazine Freshman All-American, made 2.17 blocks per game (.341 hitting and 3.18 kills) last year. The All-District VII performer set career highs of 25 kills, 19 digs and 14 blocks last year. This year she was named to the Georgia Invitational All-Tournament Team after hitting .371 and averaging 4.17 kills, 2.08 digs and 1.92 blocks per game. She nearly recorded back-to-back triple doubles with 19 kills, 12 digs and 9 blocks (while hitting .533) against Georgia, and 16 kills, 8 digs and 10 blocks (while hitting .429) against Toledo. She earned all-tournament honors again last week at the Loyola Marymount Invitational.
Carpenter Putting Down the Hammer
Senior outside hitter Mari Carpenter joined teammate Nina Puikkonen on the All-Tournament Team at last week's Loyola Marymount Invitational. She hit a dominating .531 for the week and unleashed many cross-court bombs to help her to a 5 kills per game average. She also earned all-tournament honors at the Georgia Invitational after hitting.429 and averaging 3.20 kills per game. The 6-foot-4 Carpenter averaged 3.16 kills per game and hit .345 last season
Bower returns to the Outside
Senior Caroline Bower returned to an outside hitter position this year after filling a defensive role for the Cougars last year. She recorded more than 200 kills in her freshman and sophomore seasons despite being slowed by a knee injury her sophomore season. This year, she is averaging 3.28 kills and leads the team in digs (2.50 dpg) and is second in service aces with eight.
Sunny Days ahead for BYU
Freshman recruit Sunny Tonga got her first significant action of the year at outside hitter in a start against Toledo and showed she should be a valuable contributor this year and in the future. She had 10 kills and hit .292 in the four-game win. The versatile Tonga also saw playing time at rightside last week. On the year she is hitting .250 and averaging 2 kills per game.
Soft-Spoken Michaelis Wields Winning Stick
In the world of collegiate women's volleyball, few if any coaches command more respect than Cougar head coach Elaine Michaelis. Now beginning 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 817-205-5 record (since records were first kept at BYU beginning in 1969) and has the most wins ever by a female coach. She enters her first season in the new Mountain West Conference with a 321-30 conference record in four previous leagues and the distinction of winning the inaugural championship of each league. Last year, Michaelis coached in her 1000th recorded match and 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, has had 25 straight 20-win seasons.
The 1999 Schedule
With 17 road matches on its schedule, including a date with No. 7 ranked Stanford in late September, BYU has a challenging 1999 schedule. The Cougars open Mountain West Conference play at Air Force Oct. 1 and end the regular season Nov. 19 and 20 at home against Wyoming and No. 19 Colorado State. During the conference season, BYU will sneak in away dates with Weber State, No. 15 Arizona and Arizona State and a home match-up Notre Dame, ranked 20th by Volleyball magazine.
New Mountain West Conference
The Mountain West Conference enters its inaugural season in 1999. The Mountain West schools - Air Force Academy, Brigham Young University, Colorado State University, University of New Mexico, San Diego State University, UNLV, University of Utah and Wyoming - have garnered much success over the years in women's volleyball. Five of the institutions (BYU, CSU, New Mexico, San Diego State and Wyoming) have competed in the NCAA Tournament at least twice this decade, including BYU advancing to the NCAA Regional Finals each of the last three years and the NCAA Final Four in 1993.
A Glimpse at Last Week
After defeating Houston in three games, BYU proved too much for host Loyola Marymount, winning in three games, 15-13, 15-12, and 15-11. BYU out hit the Lions in all three games while recording a .421 hitting percentage for the match. After knocking down 22 kills and hitting .283 to pick up a close win in game one, BYU got hot in game two, hitting a sizzling .654 while not making an error in 26 attack attempts. The Cougars finished strong in the final game with a .429 percentage that overshadowed Loyola Marymount's .286 effort, its best of the night. The Cougars received another strong effort
from sophomore Nina Puikkonen despite the middle being the focus of the Lion defense. The 6-3 middle blocker made 16 kills with only one error in 24 attempts to hit .625. Mari Carpenter and Caroline Bower benefited from the one-on-one match-ups on the outside with 17 and 13 kills, respectively. Bower's precision down-the-line shots and Carpenter's powerful cross-court bombs helped the two seniors to impressive .444 and .696 hitting percentages for the match. Carpenter joined Smith and Puikkonen on the Loyola Marymount Invitational All-Tournament Team. Melissa Layton led the Cougars with 10 digs while middle blocker Jackie Bundy had a match-high seven blocks. Loyola Marymount, who was coming off a win Friday night over No. 14 Ohio State, fell to 4-2 with the loss.
A Glimpse Back at the 1998 Season
As a team, BYU was second in the nation in blocking (3.77 bpg), sixth in hitting (.291) and 19th in assists (15.20 apg). The Cougars were also 19th in home attendance with 16 regular season matches averaging 1,135 Cougar faithful at the Smith Fieldhouse. Nina Puikkonen was the nation's top blocker (2.17 bpg). Puikkonen (Volleyball magazine Freshman), Korie Rogers and Anna-Lena Smith (both AVCA Second Team) earned All-America, District VII, and first-team All-WAC honors. The 31-4 record was the team's best since 1987. The Cougars four losses were to eventual national champion Long Beach State (1-3), NCAA runner-up Penn State (0-3) and No. 5 Hawaii, who edged the Cougars in two of their three matches, both times in five-game marathon contests.
1999 Cougar Honors
Georgia Outback Invitational All-Tournament Selections
Â• Mari Carpenter
Â• Nina Puikkonen
Loyola Marymount Invitational All-Tournament Selections
Â• Mari Carpenter
Â• Nina Puikkonen
Â• Anna-Lena Smith
Mountain West Player of the Week Selection
Â• Anna-Lena Smith (last week, named Co-Player)
Cougars in Conference Stats
Blocks: first - 3.47
Hitting Percentage: first - .309
Kills: third - 17.39
Assists: third - 14.83
Aces: third - 2.22
Digs: sixth - 13.17
BYU Individual Leaders:
Blocks: Nina Puikkonen, first - 1.61
Aces: Melissa Layton, first - 0.65
Hitting Percentage: Mari Carpenter, first - .4739
Assists: Anna-Lena Smith, second - 14.00
Kills: Nina Puikkonen, second - 4.39