Former Cougars to Play Professional Volleyball

Christie Carpenter is one of four former Cougars selected for Utah's new professional volleyball team. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

Salt Lake City - Four former Cougars have been named to the Utah Unity, a professional women’s volleyball team sponsored by the Intermountain Volleyball Association. Among the ranks of this new team are Nina Puikkonen (1997-2001), Kayla Walker (2008-2009), Kiana Rogers (2006-2010) and recently graduated Christie Carpenter (2007-2011).

Combined, the team has over 20 collegiate all-conference athletes and eight All-America honors. The Unity will compete in the first Premier Volleyball League (PVL) tournament during the 2012 USA Volleyball Open National Championships in Salt Lake City May 26-29.

“Intermountain Volleyball Association is proud to step forward with USA Volleyball and 11 other regions across the country to create a professional volleyball league in the US,” said Kim Norman, head coach and founder of Utah Unity. "This is an extraordinary opportunity for our community to come out and support our amazing local talents who have elevated their skills to become some of the biggest names in post-collegiate and professional volleyball.

“The Unity gives young players a chance to get excited about playing volleyball and nurture their dreams of becoming a professional athlete. These world-class volleyball players and amazing women truly love the game and are wonderful role models for our youth." 

The roster is comprised of some of the brightest stars the state of Utah has seen in women’s volleyball over the last few decades. Airial Salvo is among the stars returning to play in Utah. A two-time Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune High School 5A MVP at Viewmont High School, Salvo went on to star at the University of Utah and the University of Washington.

Former New Mexico State standout and Provo High School graduate Angela Peterson will return to the indoor game after spending the last several years as one of the top sand doubles players in the state of Utah.

Sydney Anderson, a former State Gatorade Player of the Year at Alta High, will join Salvo and Peterson as former beehive state prep and club players returning from a successful college career out of state. At Nebraska Anderson was a Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award Finalist and finished her career as a Husker setter with 3,332 assists, the fourth-highest total in the storied history of Husker women’s volleyball.

Anderson is bringing along with her two talented out of state players in former Nebraska teammates Tara Mueller and Brooke Delano. Mueller was a Second-Team AVCA All American in 2008 at outside hitter and Delano a First-Team AVCA All-American in 2010 at middle blocker.

Local colleges are also well represented among the initial roster. Utah graduates Cinthia Angus (American Fork, Utah) and Brenda Whicker (Fruit Heights, Utah) will both fill outside hitter roles on the club. Angus, an assistant coach at Utah, was a second-team Junior College All-American at Salt Lake Community College as a sophomore in 2007 before transferring to Utah to play two seasons. Whicker was inducted into the Crimson Club Hall of Fame in 2010 and still owns the Utah career record for service aces with 161 and sits second in school history in kills (1,565) and digs (1,313).  

BYU’s excellent women’s volleyball program will be represented by four players: Rogers, Carpenter, Walker and Puikkonen. Rogers (Placerville, Calif.), a setter in her time at BYU, led the Cougars in assists with 1,147 and service aces with 32 as a senior in 2010. Carpenter (Cedar Hills, Utah) was named to the All-WCC First Team for the Cougars in 2011, finishing with 281 kills on the season. In high school, she led Lone Peak High to two state titles and two runner-up finishes. Walker (Kaysville, Utah) was a two-time Academic All-Mountain West selection at BYU and a three-time All-State First Team selection at Davis High School. Puikkonen (Draper, Utah) is one of the best middle blockers in BYU history, having racked up four conference first-team honors, a second-team All-America honor in 1999 and first team All-America in 2000.

Fans are invited to watch their favorite PVL teams along with more than 440 other adult volleyball teams in various divisions during the USA Volleyball Open National Championships at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City.

The event begins on May 26 and wraps up on June 2, with PVL teams competing May 26-29. Admission is free during the length of the tournament. A total of 11 teams will compete in the inaugural event of the PVL for a prize pool of $20,000.

About Intermountain Volleyball

The Intermountain Volleyball Association is a non-profit organization affiliated with USA Volleyball, the national governing body for amateur volleyball. IVA strives to promote activity, education, leadership, teamwork and self-worth through the sport of volleyball.

About Premier Volleyball League:

The PVL is a grass roots professional volleyball league beginning in 2012 and it will be made up of teams from among of the 40 regional volleyball associations across the United States. The PVL will be sanctioned by USA Volleyball and will offer tournament play and a league championship event each year. Additional information on the USA Premier Volleyball League can be found at: www.usapvl.com.

About USA Volleyball:

USA Volleyball is the national governing body for the sport of volleyball in the United States and is recognized by the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). Additional information on USA Volleyball can be found at: www.USAVolleyball.org.

Roster

No. Name Position Height College
1 Sydney Anderson S 6-0 Nebraska
5 Kiana Rogers S 6-0 BYU
Brooke  Delano MB 6-4 Nebraska
9 Nina Puikkonen MB 5-10 BYU
11 Airial Salvo OH 5-11 Washington
12 Kayla Walker RS 6-1 BYU
13 Cinthia Angus OH 6-5 Utah
14 Christie Carpenter OH 6-3 BYU
15 Brenda Whicker OH 6-0 Utah
16 Angela Peterson OH 5-10 New Mexico State
19 Tara Mueller OH 6-0 Nebraska

Head coach: Kim Norman

Assistant coach: Lori Salvo

Technical assistant: Owen Monroy

PR/marketing: Rebecca Steel

GM/media relations: Kraig Williams

Conference commissioner: Tom Pingel