PROVO, Utah -- One of the nation's top high school volleyball players and two top Utah athletes have signed letters of intent to play on BYU's women's volleyball team next fall.
Sunny Tonga, a two-time high school All-American from Allen, Texas, joins Carrie Bowers of Salt Lake City and Karina Puikkonen of Murray, Utah, as three highly sought-after recruits to sign with BYU and coach Elaine Michaelis.
"We are very pleased with this recruiting class," said Michaelis, the second winningest coach in NCAA Division I history. "Sunny is one of the top recruits in the country and is an extremely versatile player that will give us a lot of options. Carrie is a very accomplished player who is a very effective blocker and hitter and Karina has a lot of the same tools as her sister Nina, who had an outstanding freshman year for us this past season. Karina is experienced playing front row and setting."
Tonga, a 6-2 rightside hitter from Texas' Allen High School, is capable of playing almost any position and has the potential to make an immediate impact at the collegiate level. A two-time high school volleyball All-American, Tonga earned all-district and all-area honors as a four-year starter and was named to the 5A Texas All-State Team her junior and senior years. A four-year member of the Junior National Team, Tonga also trained for a summer with the National Team as a projected future team member. Tonga earned national recognition as one of eight student athletes selected to the Gatorade Circle of Champions.
"BYU is a national contender and I really like the attitude and atmosphere they have as a team," Tonga said of her decision to come to BYU. "I would like to be part of a national championship while at BYU."
Bowers, a 6-2 rightside hitter/middle blocker from Highland High School, was a teammate of Tonga's on the Junior National Team last year and is a three-time All-State selection. Bowers earned first-team honors her junior and senior years after being a second-team selection her sophomore year. A four-year starter, Bowers helped Highland High to two Utah State Championships during her sophomore and junior years and a third-place finish her senior year.
"BYU has a great volleyball program and they have a good recruiting class coming in," said Bowers. "I know I will play on some good teams at BYU."
Puikkonen, a 6-0 setter/rightside hitter from Murray High School, is a first-team All-State player who will become a teammate of her sister Nina for the second time when she joins the Cougars in the fall. Karina, a three-year starter at Murray High, played with Nina as a sophomore before Nina moved on to play at BYU, where she became the nation's No. 1 blocker as a redshirt freshman last year. In addition to Karina's All-State honors her senior year, she was a two-time all-region player and earned Academic All-State honors her senior year.
"I have gone to a few BYU volleyball camps and I really like the environment the coaches create," said Karina. "I'm really excited to come to BYU. It's like a dream. It will be fun to play with my sister."
BYU's women's volleyball team finished last season with a 31-4 record and a fifth-place tie in the NCAA Tournament, coming within one match of making its second final four appearance. All four BYU losses came to top-five teams, including losses to national champion Long Beach State and NCAA runner-up Penn State.