Coaches Favor BYU to Win 2001 MWC Title

COLORADO SPRINGS -- In a vote of the league's eight head coaches, BYU was selected today as the preseason favorite to win the 2001 Mountain West Conference women's volleyball title. The Cougars return four all-conference players, including All-American Nina Puikkonen, from last year's 26-7 team that won the MWC Tournament title.

BYU received five first-place votes and 46 points in the poll, edging last year's regular season champion Colorado State by a single point. The Rams totaled 45 points and earned three first-place votes. Utah is predicted to finish third (37 points), followed by San Diego State (32 points), UNLV (24 points), New Mexico (20 points), Wyoming (12 points) and Air Force (9 points).

The 2001 season opens Aug. 31 with all eight league teams participating in tournament play. Highlighting the MWC non-conference slate are 19 matches vs. teams ranked in the final 2000 USAToday/AVCA Top 25 poll, and another 33 matches vs. 2000 NCAA Tournament teams. The conference season gets underway Sept. 19 when Colorado State travels to Wyoming. The remaining MWC teams begin conference action Sept. 20 with Air Force hosting San Diego State, New Mexico hosting UNLV and BYU traveling to Utah.

The Mountain West Conference Championship will be held in Provo, Utah, Nov. 15-17 and all matches will be televised by SportsWest Productions for the second straight year.

Ten All-Mountain West Conference selections and the league's Player of the Year return for the 2001 season. BYU and Colorado State return four all-conference selections each. BYU returns Nina Puikkonen (MB), Sunny Tonga (OH), Jackie Bundy (OH) and Karina Puikkonen (S) while Colorado State returns Player of the Year Angela Knopf (MB) along with Courtney Cox (OH), Soraya Santos (MB) and Allison Peckham (S). Freshman of the Year Kim Turner (MB) is back for Utah, while San Diego State returns Melissa Wright (S).

2001 Mountain West Conference Preseason Coaches Poll

Rk. Team (1st-place votes) Points 2000 season notes

1. BYU (5)* 46 NCAA Regional semifinals, No. 13 final ranking

2. Colorado State (3)# 45 NCAA Regional semifinals, No. 10 final ranking

3. Utah 37 NCAA 2nd Round, No. 20 final ranking

4. San Diego State 32 4th in MWC

5. UNLV 24 Tied for 5th in MWC

6. New Mexico 20 Tied for 5th in MWC

7. Wyoming 12 7th in MWC

8. Air Force 9 8th in MWC

*indicates 2000 MWC Tournament champion

#indicates 2000 MWC regular season champion