BYU Plays Three Road Matches in Three Days

Cougars face No. 9 Pepperdine Wednesday

After sweeping its two home matches last week, BYU returns to the road with three matches in as many days. The 16th-ranked Cougars start the trip in Malibu, Calif., Wednesday to face No. 9 Pepperdine before traveling to Las Vegas to play UNLV Thursday and then to San Diego Friday to confront San Diego State in conference action. The Pepperdine match starts at 5 p.m. Pacific (6 p.m. Mountain) while the two Mountain West Conference matches begin at 7 p.m. Pacific (8 p.m. Mountain). This is the second time this season BYU has played matches on three consecutive days but the first time on the road.

The Cougars are 13-5 overall and 5-2 in the Mountain West Conference while Pepperdine has a 15-3 mark and a perfect 5-0 West Coast Conference record. UNLV has a 2-14 record and is 2-5 in the MWC while San Diego State is 10-10 and in fourth place in the conference at 4-3. The Cougars are currently in third place, trailing No. 3 Colorado State and No. 18 Utah in the standings.

BYU MATCHES THIS WEEK

Wednesday, Oct. 18

No. 16 BYU (13-5) at No. 9 Pepperdine (15-3)

Firestone Fieldhouse (3,104) • Malibu, Calif. • 5 p.m. PDT

Thursday, Oct. 19

BYU at UNLV (2-14)

Thomas & Mack Center (18,500) • Las Vegas • 7 p.m. PDT

Friday, Oct. 20

BYU at San Diego State (10-10)

Peterson Gym (3,368) • San Diego • 7 p.m. PDT

Series Notes

BYU holds a 12-4 series advantage over Pepperdine, including a 3-2 win in Provo last year. The Cougars set a Smith Fieldhouse attendance record at the match with 3,553 fans cheering them to victory. Pepperdine won the prior match, a 3-2 win in Provo at the 1996 Mizuno Classic. This is only the second visit for BYU to Malibu where the Cougars won 3-1 in 1987. BYU is 20-4 vs. the West Coast Conference. BYU is 7-0 vs. UNLV, but surrendered a game for the first time in the series with a 3-1 win earlier this year in Provo. The Cougars hold a 22-13 edge against San Diego State, including eight straight victories. BYU has won during its last two trips to San Diego in 1998 and 1999. The Aztecs got their last win in the series in the previous match held in San Diego, a 3-2 win in 1996. BYU has won the last six matches in three-game sweeps.

Scouting Pepperdine • Ranked No. 9 in AVCA/USA Today Coaches Poll

Pepperdine (15-3, 5-0 West Coast Conference) is returning home after playing four straight road matches, going 3-1 with wins over nationally ranked Loyola Marymount and Portland and Gonzaga. Last week's loss was at now No. 12 UC Santa Barbara, also an upcoming opponent for BYU. Pepperdine also has wins over common BYU opponents San Diego State (3-0) and Temple (3-1). The Waves other two defeats where both at No. 2 Hawaii on back-to-back nights (2-3 and 1-3). Pepperdine has won 12 of its 15 matches in three-game sweeps. The Waves are 7-0 at home this year and currently own a 12-match home winning streak. Five starters and 10 letterwinners return from last year's 26-4 team that won the West Coast Conference and advanced to the NCAA regional semifinals before losing to UCLA. This year's squad is hitting .281. Coach Nina Matthies has a career record of 326-218.

Scouting UNLV

The Rebels (2-14, 2-5 MWC) have lost to seven nationally ranked teams, including Florida, Wisconsin, UC Santa Barbara, Hawaii, Utah, Colorado State and BYU. UNLV has two three-game wins over Air Force and at Wyoming. The Rebels have been swept in 12 of their 14 losses, losing 2-3 to Alabama on Sept. 8 and 1-3 vs. BYU in Provo on Sept. 22. The Rebels did take No. 2 Hawaii to a 12-15 score in game two at Hawaii. The Rebels have six freshmen on the roster and only two seniors. UNLV is coached by Deitre Collins (51-76 overall in her fifth year, all at UNLV). Both UNLV assistant coaches are BYU graduates. Kevin Hambly, a 1998 BYU graduate, is in his fourth season and Andrea Petrilli, a 2000 graduate, is in her first year with UNLV. Petrilli was an undergraduate assistant with BYU last year and a two-time conference defensive specialist of the year during her playing career with the Cougars.

Scouting San Diego State

The Aztecs (10-10, 4-3 MWC) had a four-match winning streak snapped at No. 3 Colorado State last week. SDSU has home conference wins over New Mexico and Air Force and road wins at UNLV and Wyoming. The Aztecs conference losses are to the top three teams in the standings, nationally ranked CSU, Utah and BYU. They also have nonconference losses to nationally ranked Pepperdine, UC Santa Barbara, Arizona and Loyola Marymount. SDSU is coached by Mark Warner (92-78 overall in his sixth year, all at SDSU).

Cougar Profile

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 12.15 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). Along with the Puikkonen sisters, BYU returns sophomore Sunny Tonga, the Volleyball magazine Freshman All-American and MWC Freshman of the Year in 1999, with her sister Kalani Tonga, and Melissa Layton and Jackie Bundy.

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 854-214-5 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 (now 339-33). 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).

Puikkonen Named MWC Player of the Week for Second Time

Junior middle blocker Nina Puikkonen (pronounced PWEEK-a-nen) from BYU was named the Mountain West Conference Volleyball Player of the Week Monday, marking the second time this season and the fourth time overall Puikkonen has earned the award. A native of Murray, Utah, Puikkonen helped the Cougars to a 2-0 record last week with victories over Air Force and New Mexico. She totaled 12 kills and five total blocks in a 15-5, 15-1, 15-1 win over Air Force, and followed with 11 kills, eight digs, three solo blocks and two block assists in a 15-6, 15-1, 15-0 win over the Lobos. For the week, Puikkonen hit .459 (26k-3e-37a) and averaged 3.83 kills per game. She has recorded 10 or more kills in 15 matches this season and currently ranks No. 8 on the BYU all-time kill list with 1,052 career kills. The NCAA leader for blocks per game the past three weeks, Puikkonen was named MWC Player of the Week and the AVCA/Sports Imports Division I National Player of the Week Sept. 11. Puikkonen was a second-team AVCA All-America selection and the MWC Player of the Year in 1999.

BYU Plays Nation's Best

BYU's match at Pepperdine marks the seventh time this season the Cougars have played a team ranked in the top 20 (3-3 record, wins over Stanford, LBSU and Kansas State). BYU has also played two other teams, both losses, who were not ranked at the time but have since moved into the top 25 (Notre Dame and Utah State). BYU also defeated then No. 27 Clemson. The Cougars still have matches with No. 12 UC Santa Barbara and return dates with No. 18 Utah and No. 3 Colorado State on their schedule.

Puikkonen Moving Up Career Charts

It took junior middle blocker Nina Puikkonen just 270 games to top 1,000 kills, a career average of 3.79 kpg. The Cougar co-captain has 240 kills (3.87 kpg) this season to bring her career total to 1,052 in two-plus seasons. She needs 139 more kills to move past Michele Fellows (1190 kills from 1990-93) into 7th place on BYU's all-time list. Dylann Duncan (1985-88) tops the list at 2,188 career kills. Puikkonen has 112 blocks this year while leading the nation with a 1.81 average per game. She has moved from fifth into third on the all-time BYU blocks list with 547 career blocks. She is on pace to have a shot at Duncan's BYU-best 888 career blocks.

Michaelis Surpassed 850-Win Milestone this Season

Second all-time in division I wins, BYU coach Elaine Michaelis achieved her 850th career win with a 3-0 win over San Diego State on Sept. 23. Michaelis now has an 854-214-5 overall record in 32 seasons since records were kept. She has an amazing .796 winning percentage. She has coached at BYU for 39 seasons overall and is the all-time leader in volleyball wins among female coaches.

Karina Puikkonen Having Solid Season

Redshirt freshman setter Karina Puikkonen is off to a solid start in her first season. She is averaged 12.15 assists per game (2nd in MWC) while hitting .327 with 1.25 kills per game. She also adds 1.31 digs and 0.97 blocks and has had 18 aces. She has distributed the ball well with all five BYU hitters averaging at least 2.37 kills per game.

Double-Double Club

Nina Puikkonen, who has earned AVCA Sports Imports National Player of the Week and twice 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 15 of 18 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 while Sunny was one dig away against New Mexico Saturday (13 kills). Kalani has had 10 or more digs a team-leading five times this year. Jackie Bundy, Melissa Layton and Karina Puikkonen each have one double-double. Bundy and Layton have come close on other occasions (Jackie had 9 digs vs. Long Beach State and UNLV and 9 kills with 12 digs at CSU while Melissa had 9 kills with 14 digs vs. Notre Dame and 10 digs with 9 kills vs. New Mexico Saturday). Karina Puikkonen had 56 assists and 11 digs vs. Stanford.

Streaks

BYU has a two-match winning streak. The Cougars lost their last road match at nationally ranked Utah and are only 1-4 on the road this year. The Cougars' longest win streak of the year is five matches. BYU lost back-to-back matches to end the five-match streak, the first time since 1997 that the Cougars have suffered consecutive losses.

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 (220 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 in the AVCA poll. BYU is currently ranked 18th in the Volleyball magazine poll.

Date Rank

PS 15

9/5 17

9/12 10

9/19 15

9/26 14

10/3 13

10/10 17

10/17 16

BYU Suffers Rare Conference Defeat

BYU's loss at Utah was its first to the Utes since 1995 and marks the first time since 1995 that the Cougars have suffered more than one regular season conference defeat. In the last four conference seasons, BYU has finished with records of 13-1, 13-1, 13-1 and 15-1, respectively, either winning the league or claiming a share of first-place.

BYU's Low-down

BYU failed to reach double-digit points in at least one game of a match for the first time this season while totaling 5, 8 and 7 points against Utah. BYU's usually potent offensive attack, ranked 15th in the nation coming into the match, was held to a season-low .034 hitting percentage against the Utes. Sophomore Sunny Tonga led the Cougars with nine kills but only hit .080 in 25 attempts. The match was the first this season in which BYU failed to have a player record double-digit kills.

Loss Column

With its loss at Utah, BYU has equaled its loss total of last year when the Cougars compiled a 28-5 record while advancing to the NCAA regional semifinals. BYU has not lost more than nine matches in a season in the 1990s (31-4, 1998; 29-6, 1997; 27-7, 1996; 21-9, 1995; 25-4, 1994; 29-3, 1993; 29-4, 1992; 26-5, 1991; 26-8, 1990).

BYU on the Road

BYU got its only true away win of the season at Wyoming. BYU is 1-4 in away matches and 1-0 in neutral site contests.

Game Points

In its 16 matches, BYU had won 42 of 62 games. BYU has scored double-digit points in 52 of its 62 games (in 10 of 20 games lost).

Cougars among Statistical Leaders

BYU is second in the nation in blocking in the last NCAA rankings. The Cougars are the top Mountain West Conference team in blocking (3.55 bpg) and aces (1.89 sapg) and are second in kills (15.92 kpg), hitting percentage (.273) and assists (14.13 apg). BYU is last in digs (11.56). Individually, Nina Puikkonen leads the nation and conference in blocking (1.81 bpg). She ranks third in kills (3.87 kpg) and hitting (.343) and eighth in aces (0.34 sapg). Karina Puikkonen is second in the MWC in assists (12.15 apg). Melissa Layton tops the conference in aces (0.48 sapg) and Kalani Tonga rates fifth ().36). Sunny Tonga ranks sixth in hitting (.338 and Jackie Bundy is rated fourth among MWC blockers (1.44 bpg).

BYU Block

BYU ranks second nationally in blocking (3.55 bpg) behind No. 1 Nebraska. The Cougars have traditionally had one of the nation's top blocking teams, finishing third nationally last year. All-American Nina Puikkonen leads the nation individually with 1.81 blocks per game. 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 13 matches. BYU has recorded double-digit blocks as a team in 11 of its 18 matches. BYU had a team-high 20 blocks in loss at Notre Dame and a season-low six in wins at Wyoming and vs. Air Force. Four Cougars average near or more than one block per game.

All-Tournament Honors

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.

Last Week Summary

BYU cruised in sweeps of Air Force and New Mexico. Both matches took less than an hour to complete. The Cougar defense gave up a total of 14 points in the six games combined. BYU also held its opponents to a combined -.006 hitting percentage. The wins were BYU's eighth and ninth 3-0 victories this season. BYU hit over .400 in both matches, including a season-high .442 against New Mexico. Against the Lobos, BYU scored 21 straight points from 9-1 in game two to 15-0 in game three.