BYU Opens Mountain West Conference play Friday and Saturday at Air Force and New Mexico | The Official Site of BYU Athletics

BYU Opens Mountain West Conference play Friday and Saturday at Air Force and New Mexico

PROVO -- BYU women's volleyball team opens the Mountain West Conference season with matches Friday at Air Force and Saturday at New Mexico. Both matches begin at 7 p.m. The Preseason favorite to win the inaugural Mountain West Conference title, the Cougars enter conference play with a 7-2 record and a No. 11 national ranking.

A Quick Look at the Cougars

Several Cougar players lead conference statistical categories after the preseason. Senior All-American setter Anna-Lena Smith leads the conference in assists, averaging 13.81 per game, and sophomore middle blocker Nina Puikkonen is leading the league in kills at 4.31 per game. Puikkonen is also the top blocker, averaging 1.47, while sophomore teammate Jackie Bundy is second in blocks at 1.41. Senior outside hitter Mari Carpenter is second in hitting percentage at .415. The Cougars are coming off a split last week, defeating California in three games before losing to No. 6 Stanford at the Pac-10/Mountain West Challenge. 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, Melissa Layton and Mari Carpenter.

Quote from Coach Elaine Michaelis

It is exciting to begin conference play, especially with these being our first-ever Mountain West Conference matches. We played well at times last week but we hope to improve our consistency. I feel like we will play well this week.

Series with the Falcons

This will be BYU's fifth meeting with Air Force. The Cougars hold a 4-0 advantage in the series, winning twice in 1996 and two times in 1997 by 3-0 counts as part of the Western Athletic Conference. BYU is 2-0 at Air Force.

Scouting Air Force

At 11-2, the Falcons have already set a school record for most wins in a season since moving to division I in 1996. Last year the Falcons were 9-17 and 2-12 in the WAC. Coach Penny Lucas-White has 11 letterwinners and five of six starters returning. Senior outside hitters Tracy Wilkerson and Brooke Effland lead the team and the conference in digs with 3.92 and 3.59 digs per game, respectively. As a team, the Falcons are second in the conference in digs and third in hitting (.237) while riding a five-match winning streak.

Series with the Lobos

This will be BYU's 51st meeting with New Mexico. The Cougars have a 43-7 series record with the Lobos, dating back to 1970. BYU is 18-4 in Albuquerque. BYU has a seven-match winning streak, with the Lobos last victory taking place in Provo, 3-0, in 1995. The Cougars have also won the last seven meetings in Albuquerque, with the Lobos last home win being a 3-1 win in 1991.

Last Year vs. the Lobos

October 24 • Smith Fieldhouse • Provo, Utah (1,226)

PROVO -- Coming off two wins Friday night against UTEP and No. 7 UC Santa Barbara, BYU continued its strong play in a win over New Mexico, 15-5, 15-7, 15-3. Korie Rogers led the defense with 10 digs and five blocks. Helen Hjorth ended the match with 11 digs. Melissa Layton put down 11 kills to lead the Cougar offense while Anna-Lena Smith contributed 32 assists. Freshman Alyssa Barrus added to the blocking effort with four block assists and one solo block. (20-1, 7-0)

November 20 • University Arena • Albuquerque (367)

ALBUQUERQUE -- Korie Rogers was on fire again, chalking up 18 kills, 10 digs, two service aces and a .592 hitting percentage to lead No. 6-ranked BYU to a win over New Mexico, 15-6, 15-11, 15-7. Melissa Layton added 12 kills and recorded a .578 hitting percentage. She also led the team in blocking with seven block assists, one more than teammate Nina Puikkonen, who also added 10 kills. Caroline Bower led the team with 11 digs. Anna-Lena Smith contributed 43 assists. (25-2, 12-1)

Scouting New Mexico

The Lobos enter a Friday match with Utah with a 5-11 record before facing BYU Saturday. The Lobos are led by senior outside hitter Amber Smith, who has been an all-tournament selection three times during the preseason, and senior setter Janelle Torres, who set the school assist record this year. The Lobos are fourth in the conference in digs (13.72 dpg) and hit .157 as a team.

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.

MWC Preseason Poll

The Cougars, who have won the inaugural conference championship in each of their three previous leagues, were voted the coaches' preseason favorite to win the first Mountain West Conference title. BYU will host the inaugural MWC tournament Nov. 24-27 at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo.

1) BYU

2) Colorado State

3) Utah

4) UNLV

5) Wyoming

6) New Mexico

7) San Diego State

8) Air Force

Anna-Lena Smith

BYU is set at the setter position with second-team AVCA All-American Anna-Lena Smith. The 5-foot-10 senior leads the conference in assist (13.81) and needs just 330 more assists in 1999 to surpass current U.S. National Team setter Charlene Johnson Tagaloa atop BYU's all-time list. She is hitting .442 (1.31 kpg).

Nina Puikkonen

In the past five years, no one has averaged more blocks per game than Nina Puikkonen did last year (2.17 bpg). A Volleyball magazine Freshman All-American 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 also earned all-tournament honors again at the Loyola Marymount Invitational. She leads the team and conference in kills (4.31), blocks 1.47 blocks and is hitting .391 (fifth in MWC).

Mari Carpenter

Senior outside hitter Mari Carpenter is hitting .415 (seventh nationally) and averaging 3.79 kills per game. She has been named to the All-Tournament Team at the Loyola Marymount Invitational (hitting .531 for the week and unleashed 5 kills per game) and the Georgia Outback Invitational (hitting.429 and averaging 3.20 kills per game).

Caroline Bower

Senior Caroline Bower had her best performance of the year against Cal, hitting .600 (12-0-20) while leading the team in kills (12) and digs (15). She added nine kills and a team-high 10 digs against No. 7 Stanford. She recorded more than 200 kills from the outside in her freshman and sophomore seasons before playing a defensive role last year. She is averaging 3.34 kills and leads the team in digs (2.81 dpg) and is second in service aces with 11.

A Glimpse at Last Week

BYU defeated California, 3-0, before losing to No. 7 Stanford at the Pac-10/Mountain West Challenge in Stanford, Calif. Senior outside hitter Caroline Bower helped BYU to a 3-0 win over California Friday. Bower shared a team-high 12 kills with middle blocker Nina Puikkonen and totalled a match-high 15 digs to help the Cougars to a 15-11, 15-8, 16-14 victory. Bower approached her career high attack percentage of .615 by hitting .600, while four Cougars hit .300 or better on the night. Anna-Lena Smith hit .400 (5-1-10), Puikkonen .304 (12-5-23) and freshman Sunny Tonga hit .385 (6-1-13). BYU's seven-match winning streak ended when the Cougars lost 15-11, 15-7, 15-10 to seventh-ranked Stanford. The win extended the Cardinal winning streak at Maples Pavilion to 31 straight matches. Stanford out hit the Cougars .311 to .227 to gain the three-game win. BYU was led by senior outside hitter Mari Carpenter and sophomore middle blocker Nina Puikkonen with 12 kills apiece. Bower added nine kills and junior rightside hitter Melissa Layton contributed eight. BYU's All-American setter Anna-Lena Smith hit .600 with six kills to go along with 43 assists. Carpenter followed in hitting percentage for the Cougars at .375 (12-3-24), and Bower had a team-high 10 digs. Smith and Puikkonen each added four blocks but the Cougars were out blocked by the Cardinal, 11-6, for the match.

At this point one year ago ...

Match #10 -- September 22

Smith Fieldhouse • Provo, Utah (437)

PROVO -- BYU downed the Wildcats in three games, serving well in the first and third games to keep the Wildcats from getting into a good passing game. BYU got a solid effort from Mari Carpenter, who had nine kills while making only one error in 13 attempts. Freshman Nina Puikkonen contributed 11 kills. (9-1, 0-0)

Match #11 -- September 26

Smith Fieldhouse • Provo, Utah (945)

PROVO --Senior Helen Hjorth was on fire, putting down 18 kills and contributing 14 digs to lead BYU to its 10th win. Hjorth hit a career-best .556. The Cougar defense came on strong with Caroline Bower leading the way with 17 digs. Mari Carpenter added 13 kills to the offensive attack. (10-1, 0-0)

1999 BYU TEAM STATS

Overall record: 7-2 Conf: 0-0 Home: 2-0 Away: 2-1 Neutral: 3-1

TEAM STATISTICS BYU OPP

--------------------------------------------------------

ATTACK........................

Kills....................... 547 444

Errors...................... 198 237

Total Attacks............... 1170 1210

Attack Pct.................. .298 .171

Kills/Game.................. 17.1 13.9

SET...........................

Assists..................... 485 386

Assists/Game................ 15.2 12.1

SERVE.........................

Aces........................ 65 71

Errors...................... 131 91

Aces/Game................... 2.0 2.2

SERVE RECEPTIONS..............

Errors...................... 71 65

Errors/Game................. 2.2 2.0

DEFENSE.......................

Digs........................ 426 355

Digs/Game................... 13.3 11.1

BLOCKING......................

Block Solo.................. 27 17

Block Assist................ 160 97

Total Blocks................ 107.0 65.5

Blocks Per Game............. 3.3 2.0

Block Errors................ 21 14

BALL HANDLING ERRORS.......... 10 9

ATTENDANCE....................

Total....................... 4905 2861

Dates/Avg Per Date.......... 2/2452 3/954

Neutral site #/Avg.......... 4/236

MATCH WINS BY #GAMES 1 2 3 4 5 Total

-----------------------------------------------

Brigham Young....... 0 0 4 1 2 - 7

Opponents........... 0 0 2 0 0 - 2

GAMES WON BY GAME 1 2 3 4 5 Total

-----------------------------------------------

Brigham Young....... 6 6 4 3 2 - 21

Opponents........... 3 3 5 0 0 - 11

POINTS BY GAME 1 2 3 4 5 Total

-----------------------------------------------

Brigham Young....... 123 117 124 45 34 - 443

Opponents........... 92 94 125 25 26 - 362