PROVO -- After defeating in-state foe Weber State Tuesday, BYU takes its first Mountain West Conference road trip of the year to face third-ranked Colorado State (14-1, 1-0 MWC) Friday and Wyoming (6-10, 0-1) Saturday. The Cougars, ranked ninth (Volleyball magazine) and 14th (AVCA/USA Today) in the national polls, are 10-3 overall and 2-0 in conference play.
Friday's match at No. 3 Colorado State marks the third time this year BYU will face one of the nation's top-three rated teams. BYU defeated then No. 1 Stanford and No. 2 Long Beach State in Provo Sept. 8 and 9. Overall, BYU has faced five top-20 teams this year and has a 3-2 record in those matches.
The Cougars played the Rams three times last year. Each team won at home during the regular season before the Rams defeated BYU in the Mountain West Conference Tournament Championship match in Provo. BYU won the regular season title with a 13-1 conference record while the Rams finished 12-2. BYU swept its three matches with Wyoming in 1999.
Â• BYU improved to 49-0 vs. Weber State with its win Tuesday.
Â• BYU holds a 40-9-1 overall advantage in the series with Colorado State, dating back to 1974. The Rams won two of three from BYU last year, however, winning in Fort Collins (3-0) during the regular season and defeating the Cougars in Provo (3-0) for the Mountain West Conference Tournament title. BYU won in between the two defeats in Provo (3-1). The Rams have won three of the last four including a 1997 CSU win in Fort Collins that ended BYU's 18-match winning streak against the Rams dating back to 1988. BYU has lost the last two matches in Fort Collins. BYU's last win in Fort Collins was a 3-1 win on Nov. 4 1995. Overall, BYU has a 14-6 record in Fort Collins and is 21-3 vs. the Rams in Provo and 5-0-1 against CSU on a neutral court.
Â• BYU is 44-3 all-time against Wyoming, dating back to 1972. BYU has a 19-match winning streak going against Wyoming, including three wins last year. BYU has won the last six matches without losing a game. Overall, BYU is 19-2 in Laramie, 23-1 at home and 5-0 on a neutral court versus Wyoming. BYU's last loss to Wyoming was a 3-1 defeat in Laramie on Nov. 17, 1989.
Scouting Colorado State Â• Ranked No. 3 AVCA/USA Today
Colorado State are 14-1 overall and 1-0 in Mountain West Conference play. They moved up one spot to a No. 3 national ranking after defeating Wyoming and two ranked teams, Loyola Marymount and Notre Dame, in three games last week. The Rams are playing extremely well, hitting .315 on the season and a sizzling .383 last week. The Rams return five starters and eight letterwinners from last year's NCAA regional semifinal team. Middle blockers Angela Knopf and Summer Jennings and setter Allison Peckham were all named to the Golden Dome Invitational All-Tournament team last week with Knopf earning MVP honors. Katherine Pettit earned tournament defensive specialist honors as well. This year the Rams have wins over five ranked teams. In addition to last week's wins, they also defeated UCSB, Florida and UCLA. The Bruins were ranked No. 1 at the time. CSU is tough at home, having won 35 straight in Moby Arena, including 26 matches by 3-0 counts. The last loss was to Arizona on Sept. 6, 1998. The Rams are coached by Tom Hilbert (269-90 overall in 12 years, including a 95-18 record in four years at CSU).
The Cowgirls enter the week with a 6-10 overall record and 0-1 conference mark. The lone conference match to date was a three-game loss at Colorado State. After losing to three ranked teams last week, CSU, Notre Dame and Loyola Marymount, the Cowgirls will face two more top-20 teams with Utah coming to Laramie Friday before BYU's arrival Saturday. The Cowgirls have not had a losing streak this season longer than the existing three match losing skid. Wyoming does have a two-match home winning streak going and is 2-3 at home this year. The Cowgirls hit .180 as a team and are led by outside hitter Jamie Burke (3.36 kills per game) and middle blocker Melody Friehauf (2.62 kills, .291 attack percentage). Wyoming is coached by Susan Judge (101-106 overall in seven years, including a 64-74 record in five years at Wyoming).
Michaelis Reaches 850-Win Milestone
Second all-time in division I wins, BYU coach Elaine Michaelis achieved her 850th career win Saturday vs. San Diego State. With BYU's win Tuesday over Weber State, Michaelis now has an 851-212-5 overall record in 32 seasons since records were kept. She has coached at BYU for 39 seasons overall and is the all-time leader in volleyball wins among female coaches.
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 851-212-5 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).
Karina Puikkonen Off to Solid Start
Redshirt freshman setter Karina Puikkonen is off to a solid start in her first season. She is averaged 12.39 assists per game while hitting .320 with 1.22 kills per game. She also adds 1.35 digs and 1.04 blocks per game and has had 13 aces. She has distributed the ball well with all five BYU hitters averaging more than 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 11 of 13 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 and Melissa Layton each have one double-double and both players have come close on other occasions (Jackie had 9 digs vs. Long Beach State and UNLV while Melissa had 9 kills with 14 digs vs. Notre Dame).
BYU has a four-match win streak entering its meeting with Colorado State Friday. The Cougars are 0-2 on the road this year, however. The Cougars' longest win streak of the year is five matches. BYU lost back-to-back matches to end the previous win streak, the first time since 1997 that the Cougars have suffered consecutive losses.
With its 17-block night Tuesday vs. Weber State, BYU has pulled into a tie with No. 1 Nebraska as the nation's top blocking team (3.74 bpg). All-American Nina Puikkonen leads the nation individually with 1.87 blocks per game. The Cougar have traditionally had one of the nation's top blocking teams, finishing third nationally last year. 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 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. BYU's seven blocks at Utah State is a season low. BYU had a team-high 20 blocks in loss at Notre Dame. BYU has recorded double-digit blocks as a team in nine of its 13 matches and is coming off 15.5 and 17 block outings in its last two matches. Four Cougars average more than one block per game.
In its 13 matches, BYU had won 33 of 47 games. BYU has scored double-digit points in 41 of its 47 games (in eight of 14 games lost).
Cougars among Statistical Leaders
BYU moved into a tie with Nebraska as the nation's top blocking team with a 3.74 bpg average after recording 17 blocks vs. Weber State Tuesday. BYU entered the week 12th in hitting (.280) as a team. The Cougars are the top Mountain West Conference team in blocking and are second in kills (16.27 kpg) hitting percentage (.280) assists (14.39) and aces (1.77). BYU is sixth in digs (11.61). Individually, Nina Puikkonen leads the nation in blocking (1.87 bpg). Entering the week, she ranks fourth in the conference in kills (3.86 kpg), fifth in hitting (.351) and eighth in aces (0.36 sapg). Karina Puikkonen is second in the MWC in assists (12.47 apg) and eighth in blocking (1.02 bpg). Melissa Layton is third in the conference in aces (0.45 sapg) while Sunny Tonga rates third in hitting (.364) and 12th in kills (3.20 kpg). Jackie Bundy is rated fifth among MWC blockers (1.36 bpg).
BYU in the National Polls
BYU, who has been ranked in the USA Today/AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 poll the seventh most times (217 weeks) of all teams in the nation, joined Colorado State of the MWC by spending the entire 1999 season ranked in the USA Today/AVCA Division I Coaches Poll, finishing the season rated 13th (CSU finished at No. 12) The Mountain West Conference joined the Pac-10, Big West and Big 12 as the only leagues to place multiple teams in the top-15. BYU has been ranked No. 1 on four occasions. Below is the list of where the Cougars have been ranked each week this year.
Nina Puikkonen was named the MVP the BYU Mizuno Classic. She was joined on the all-tournament team by Cougar teammates Sunny Tonga and Jackie Bundy. Melissa Layton, Nina Puikkonen and Sunny Tonga were earlier named to the Shamrock Invitational All-Tournament Team.
Puikkonen Named AVCA/Sports Imports National Player of the Week
Nina Puikkonen, a 6-3 junior middle blocker from Murray, Utah, was named the AVCA/Sports Imports Division I National Player of the Week after leading then-No. 17 BYU to a 5-0 record with three wins over top 20 teams Sept. 11-16. Puikkonen, the BYU Mizuno Classic Most Valuable Player, attacked at a .400 hitting percentage for the week with wins over then-No. 1 Stanford, then-No. 2 Long Beach State, then-No. 20 Kansas State, Oral Roberts and Fairfield. She tied a career high in kills (25), had a season high in digs (12) and set a new high for aces (4) versus Long Beach State. Puikkonen, who was one dig away from a triple double against Stanford, averaged 4.63 kills, 2.32 digs, 2.16 blocks and 0.42 aces during the week, while posting a .400 attack percentage on 160 attempts. Puikkonen becomes the second BYU player to be recognized as the national player of the week. Former Cougar middle blocker Amy Steele Gant, who went on to play for the U.S. National Team, earned the previous award, Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 1996.
Puikkonen Earns Mountain West Conference Player of the Week
Nina Puikkonen was named the Mountain West Conference Volleyball Player of the Week for the week of Sept. 11-16, marking the first time this season and the third time overall Puikkonen has earned the award. She helped the Cougars to a 5-0 week record, highlighted by victories over three ranked opponents. BYU stunned No. 1 Stanford Friday 15-9, 13-15, 15-6, 15-8, and came back for a five-game win over No. 2 Long Beach State (15-17, 12-15, 15-13, 15-1, 15-6) the next night to win the Mizuno Classic Championship in Provo. The Cougars started the week with a 15-9, 9-15, 15-10, 15-4 win over No. 20 Kansas State Tuesday, and recorded three-game victories over Oral Roberts (15-7, 15-8, 15-3) and Fairfield (15-9, 15-4, 15-3) in the Mizuno Classic. Puikkonen was named the Mizuno Classic Most Valuable Player after racking up 71 kills, 34 blocks and 36 digs to go with a .397 hitting percentage in the tournament. For the week, the two-time All-America selection hit .400 (88k-24e-160a) and totaled 88 kills (4.63 per game), 44 digs (2.32 per game), 41 total blocks (2.16 per game) and eight aces (.42 per game). She tied a career high with 25 kills and set a career high with four service aces vs. No. 2 Long Beach State. She was just one dig shy of a triple-double vs. No. 1 Stanford as she finished the match with 16 kills, 10 blocks and nine digs.
Cougar Team Briefing
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. The Cougars expect to 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 five outstanding hitters on the court. All six starters stand at least 6-foot tall. Inexperience at the setter position is the team's biggest question mark after losing all-time assist leader Anna-Lena Smith to graduation but redshirt freshman Karina Puikkonen has stepped in nicely thus far, averaging 12.39 assists. Headlining the Cougar roster in 2000 is two-time All-American middle blocker Nina Puikkonen, who leads the nation in blocking (she led the nation as a freshman and finishing third as a sophomore). 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). And 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.