Cougars Face Utes Friday at Smith Fieldhouse | The Official Site of BYU Athletics

Cougars Face Utes Friday at Smith Fieldhouse

PROVO -- After two road wins last week, BYU returns home to host in-state rival Utah Friday in the Smith Fieldhouse. The match will be televised live on KBYU-TV Channel 11 starting at 7 p.m. Utah is 19-6 overall and 9-2 in Mountain West Conference play while the Cougars boast a 21-3 and 10-1 marks and a No. 10 ranking.

A Quick Look at the Cougars

BYU enters this week's rematch with Utah with a seven-match win streak. The Cougars have won their last 14 consecutive games and in Mountain West Conference play have won 30 of thier 33 games on the way to a 10-1 record and first-place standing. Last week BYU defeated San Diego State and UNLV in three games. Freshman Sunny Tonga had a career-high 15 kills to lead the Cougars to the win over the Aztecs while sophomore Nina Puikkonen came one dig away from a triple-double in each of the Cougar wins. Puikkonen averaged more than five kills and nearly four blocks to go along with three digs per game to earn Mountain West Conference Player of the Week honors for the second time this year. Next week the Cougars host Wyoming and Colorado State in Provo to finish the first-ever Mountain West Conference season. BYU's lone conference loss came at Colorado State. The Rams are currently 9-1 in conference play.

Quote from Coach Elaine Michaelis>

"We played extremely well against Utah earlier this year and we hope to repeat that effort this time around. The key was we were able to pass very well and get into our offense. Utah is a very good team. They are having a very successful season and have been very consistent and competitive playing against some very good teams like Stanford and Colorado State. McKelle (Stilson) was really hard for us to stop last time we played them. We want to stay in position to win the conference championship and it will require our best effort against Utah Friday night. Nina played very well for us last week and she and Anna-Lena are connecting very well right now."

Scouting the Utes

The Utes enter the week with a 19-6 record, and a third-place 9-2 Mountain West Conference mark. Utah has a four-match win streak and remains in contention for the conference title. The Utes and Cougars have played 15 common opponents in 1999. Utah has a 13-4 record in those matches compared to BYU's 15-2 mark. Both teams dropped matches to No. 7 Stanford and No. 11 Colorado State while the Utes also fell to No. 9 Pepperdine and Georgia. Last week the Utes defeated UNLV (13-15, 15-8, 15-8, 15-4) and San Diego State in four games, (8-15, 15-6, 15-9, 15-0).

Series with Utah

This will be the 64th women's volleyball meeting between the two schools with BYU holding a 57-6 advantage in the series that dates back to 1970. The Cougars have an eight-match winning streak against the Utes since losing a 3-0 match to Utah in Salt Lake City in 1995. Overall, BYU is 27-1 against Utah in Provo. The Utes lone win in Provo was a 3-2 win during the 1985 BYU Invitational.

Last Match with Utah

SALT LAKE -- BYU defeated Utah Friday on the Utes home court, 15-7, 15-4, 15-12, to extended the Cougars' win streak to seven matches. The Cougars took the early momentum despite playing in front of 1,453 fans at Crimson Court, getting out to an 8-2 lead in the first game. Hitting .400 for the game, the Cougars were able to maintain their advantage and claim a 15-7 win. Nina Puikkonen and Mari Carpenter led the way with six and five kills, respectively, in the first game. After trading the first several points in game two, BYU turned a 5-4 advantage into a 15-4 win while hitting .353 for the game. The Cougars put the game away behind the strong jump serving of Melissa Layton, who led the team with two service aces. Trailing the Utes, 8-1 and then 10-4 in the third game, BYU went on a run that saw them overtake Utah and claim an 11-10 advantage. With the game tied at 12-12, BYU got three consecutive blocks from Nina Puikkonen, Anna-Lena Smith and Mari Carpenter to put back Utah's attack and earn the final 15-12 score for the match. Puikkonen had 13 kills and five blocks to lead BYU. Carpenter added 11 kills and Jackie Bundy nine. Caroline Bower had a match-high 16 digs for the Cougars while All-American setter Anna-Lena Smith tossed up 39 assists to go with seven digs and three blocks. Utah was led by Stilson and Alisa Geddes with 11 kills apiece. The Utes hit .139 as a team while BYU hit .309. With the win, BYU improved to 13-2 and 5-0 in the MWC. Utah falls to 13-5 and 4-1.

Last Year vs. the Utes

October 2 • Crimson Court • Salt Lake City, Utah (1,257)

SALT LAKE CITY -- BYU demonstrated why it is ranked fifth in the nation, defeating Utah in three games, 15-3, 15-10, 15-1, on its home court in the WAC opener for both teams. Senior Korie Rogers and freshman Nina Puikkonen led the way for BYU, each recording 10 kills. Puikkonen also recorded 10 blocks on the night while Melissa Layton and Mari Carpenter both added seven kills. Anna-Lena Smith had 32 assists and a match-high 12 digs. (BYU record:11-1, 1-0)

October 30 • Smith Fieldhouse • Provo, Utah (2,201)

PROVO -- Led by outside hitter Mari Carpenter, fourth-ranked BYU defeated in-state rival Utah 15-6, 15-4, 15-9 Friday in front of 2,201 fans, the second largest crowd to watch a match during the year at the Smith Fieldhouse. Carpenter, who also plays on the Cougars' basketball team, knocked down 15 kills in 24 attempts without making an error to headline BYU's offensive attack. She also played well defensively at the net, totaling four blocks on the night. (BYU record: 21-1, 8-0)

Puikkonen Named MWC Player of the Week for Second Time

Sophomore middle blocker Nina Puikkonen earned the Mountain West Conference Volleyball Player of the Week honor for her play last week. She has earned the honor twice this season. She was just short of two triple-doubles -- falling one dig short in each three-game match. At San Diego State she collected 12 kills, 11 blocks and nine digs, then at UNLV she totaled 19 kills, 11 blocks and nine digs. She averaged an impressive 5.17 kills, 3.67 blocks and 3.00 digs per game and hit .431 with 31 total kills and just nine errors in 51 attempts. She also served two aces. She established a new three-game season-high with the 11 blocks at SDSU, then tied that effort at UNLV. Puikkonen currently leads the conference in hitting percentage at .367, kills with a 4.28 per game average and blocking with a 1.80 per game average. She was listed fifth in the nation in blocking last week and should move up in the rankings this week. She leads the team with six double-doubles, reached double figures in blocking three times and put away double-digit kills in 23 of BYU's 24 matches -- 18 of which have lasted only three games. She was also named Player of the Week Oct. 4-10.

Smith is Record Setter

All-American senior setter Anna-Lena Smith set BYU's all-time assist record against Wyoming. The four-year starter surpassing the old mark by current U.S. National Team setter Charlene Johnson Tagaloa (5, 321). Last week she had a strong week, hitting .571 while averaging 1.33 kills, 14.17 assists, 2.83 digs and 2.17 blocks per game.

Tonga Proving Star Potential in First Season

True freshman Sunny Tonga set a MWC and BYU single-match attack percentage record against Wyoming when successfully put down 10 kills in 11 attempts without a single error for a .909 hitting percentage. She kept the hot hand and totalling a personal-best 13 kills in 14 attempts with one error against Arizona State to record BYU's third-best single-match effort of .857. Last week she recorded a career-high 15 kills at San Diego State.

Bower Continues Solid Play

Senior Caroline Bower has five double-doubles this year. She had 11 kills and matched a career-best 27 digs -- the best effort by a MWC player thus far -- against No. 19 Arizona Wildcats to last accomplish the feat.

Michaelis Notables

In the world of collegiate women's volleyball, few if any coaches command more respect than Cougar head coach Elaine Michaelis. Now in her 38th year at the helm of the BYU program, Michaelis also enters her fifth year as Director of Women's Athletics. A proven winner, Michaelis is second all-time in Division I victories with an 833-207-5 record (since records were first kept at BYU beginning in 1969) and has the most wins ever by a female coach. She entered her first season in the new Mountain West Conference with a 321-30 conference record in four previous leagues and the distinction of winning the inaugural championship of each league. Last year, Michaelis coached in her 1000th recorded match and reached the milestone of 800 victories while coaching the Cougars to their third straight NCAA Regional Final. Michaelis, whose 31-4 record last year marked the eighth time she has recorded more than 30 victories in a season, has had 25 straight 20-win seasons.

Team Notables

Four Cougars averaged more than two blocks per game for the week -- Nina Puikkonen (3.67), Anna-Lena Smith (2.17), Melissa Layton (2.17) and Jackie Bundy (2.00). Three Cougars averaged more than three kills per game -- Puikkonen (5.17), Tonga (4.50) and Caroline Bower (3.17). Puikkonen (3.00) and Bower (4.33) joined Jackie Bundy (3.17) in averaging more than three digs per game for the week. BYU has won 30 of its 33 conference games while earning a 10-1 Mountain West record. BYU has won its last 14 straight games and has a seven-match winning streak.

Cougars in Conference Stats

Team:

Blocks: 1st -- 3.65

Hitting: 1st -- .294

Kills: 2nd -- 16.69

Assists: 2nd -- 14.77

Aces: 5th -- 1.57

Digs: 5th -- 13.99

Individual:

Blocks: Nina Puikkonen, 1st -- 1.80

Jackie Bundy, 2nd -- 1.34

Hitting: Mari Carpenter, Tie 1st -- .367

Nina Puikkonen, Tie 1st -- .367

Sunny Tonga, 4th -- .346

Kills: Nina Puikkonen, 1st -- 4.28

Mari Carpenter, 3rd -- 3.94

Assists: Anna-Lena Smith, 1st -- 13.16

Aces Melissa Layton, 2nd -- 0.40

Digs: Caroline Bower, 2nd -- 3.22

Cougars in National Stats

Team (as of Nov. 1):

Hitting: 8th -- .296

Blocks: 5th -- 3.47

Individual:

Blocks: Nina Puikkonen, 5th -- 1.65

1999 Cougar Honors

Georgia Outback Invitational All-Tournament Selections