BYU's Smith, Puikkonen Named to AVCA District 7 Team

PROVO -- BYU setter Anna-Lena Smith and middle blocker Nina Puikkonen have earned American Volleyball Coaches Association All-District 7 honors for the second straight year.

"Al (Anna-Lena) and Nina have proven themselves throughout the season," BYU coach Elaine Michaelis said. "They are a good pair and feed each other's success so it is very appropriate that they are getting this award together. Nina has been a dominating player in the middle and it is a credit to how well Anna-Lena distributes the ball that our team is among the nation's leaders in hitting percentage."

Smith, who last year went on to earn second-team AVCA All-America honors after earning All-District status, set BYU's all-time assist record this year while leading a BYU offense that ranks sixth (.298 attack percentage) in the nation. In addition to averaging 12.93 assists per match, Smith leads the team with a .383 hitting percentage and adds 1.89 digs and 0.80 blocks per contest. The senior is also the BYU record holder for assists in a match with 89.

"I feel good to be honored among the great players selected on the All-District team," Smith said. "It's a great honor because there are a lot of good teams and players this year."

Puikkonen, who last year was selected to the Volleyball magazine Freshman All-American Team, led BYU's powerful attack with 454 kills (4.24 kills per match) while hitting .372. The nation's leading blocker last year, the sophomore is averaging 1.89 blocks this year -- the third best average in the nation -- and is coming up with 1.96 digs per match.

"I consider it a great honor," Puikkonen said. When you look at all the great teams and players in the district, it gives me confidence to know people feel I belong to the team."

In addition to All-District 7 honors, Smith and Puikkonen have received numerous awards this year while leading BYU to its fourth straight NCAA Regional appearance. Smith was named first-team all-conference for the fourth straight year, was named Mountain West Conference Player of the Week and was selected to the Loyola Marymount Invitational All-Tournament team. Puikkonen was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year in 1999 and received her second straight first-team all-conference honors. A two-time MWC Player of the Week this year, she also was named to the all-tournament teams at the MWC Tournament, Georgia Outback Invitational and Loyola Marymount Invitational.

BYU's pair was two of 12 players selected to the team. Pacific had the most players on the team with three, followed by BYU, UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State with two each. Colorado State, Hawaii and Cal Poly each had one player named to the team.

Smith was one of two setters on the team while Puikkonen was one of five middle blockers selected. Four outside hitters were recognized, led by UC Santa Barbara's Roberta Gehlke, who made the team for the fourth time. Pacific's Jennica Smith was the lone rightside hitter named to the team.

Nine seniors and three sophomores, including Puikkonen, made up the team. In addition, Hawaii's Lily Kahumoku was recognized as the District 7 Freshman of the Year while John Dunning, head coach at the University of the Pacific, was named Tachikara/AVCA District 7 Coach of the Year.

This year's AVCA All-America teams and the Tachikara/AVCA National Coach of the Year will be announced Wednesday, prior to the NCAA Final Four being played in Honolulu next weekend.

AVCA All-District 7 Team:

Heather Bown * Hawai'i MB Sr.

Tracy Chambers * Pacific MB Sr.

Kari DeSoto Cal Poly MB Sr.

Roberta Gehlke *** UC-Santa Barbara OH Sr.

Anja Grabovac * Long Beach State OH Sr.

Nina Puikkonen * BYU MB So.

Brooke Rundle UC-Santa Barbara S So.

Anna-Lena Smith * BYU S Sr.

Jennica Smith * Pacific RS Sr.

Elsa Stegemann ** Pacific OH Sr.

Catie Vagneur Colorado State OH Sr.

Cheryl Weaver Long Beach State MB So.

District Freshman of the Year: Lily Kahumoku, Hawai'i, OH

* Previous All-District Awards