No. 20 BYU Bound for Thanksgiving Tourney and No.1 Long Beach State

PROVO -- The Cougars are gearing up for the final road trip of the regular season as they head to the annual Long Beach Thanksgiving Tournament. No. 1 Long Beach State is coming off two conference championship-clinching wins last week. Cal Poly was one of the teams that fell at the hands of the 49ers, but have played competitively in a tough conference.

Long Beach State will be working overtime this week, playing in matches on Monday and Tuesday, as well as the weekend matches in the tournament. The 49er are making up conference games that were postponed due to the terrorist attacks on the United States in September.

The Cougars went 1-1 last week in the Mountain West Conference Tournament. BYU, which hosted the tournament, defeated Wyoming in three games and then lost to Utah in four games in the semifinal match. Nina Puikkonen led the Cougars with 35 kills in two matches while hitting .444 in the first match and .611 against a good-blocking Utah team. Uila Crabbe shined for the Cougars defensively with 17 digs in the tournament, garnering a all-tournament spot as a defensive specialist.

BYU will be rested and looking for the 20th win of the season. The two-day tournament is in Long Beach, Calif.

In other news, BYU senior all-American Nina Puikkonen was selected to the 2001 Vorizon Academic All-District VIII Second team for her 3.44 GPA in Zoology. Puikkonen was a third-team selection in 2000.

Long Beach Thanksgiving Tournament

Friday, Nov. 23, 2001

No. 18 BYU (19--7, 10-4 MWC) at Cal Poly SLO (15-10 9-9 Big West)

The Pyramid • Long Beach, Calif. • 5 p.m. PT

Saturday Nov. 24, 2001

No. 18 BYU (19--7, 10-4 MWC) at Long Beach St. (25-0, 18-0 Big West)

The Pyramid • Long Beach, Calif. • 7 :30 p.m. PT

Cal Poly SLO (15-10, 9-9 Big West)

A BRIEF LOOK AT THE MUSTANGS

The Mustangs are 15-10 overall. They are 9-9 in the Big West and in fifth place. The Mustangs come into the match against the Cougars after an 0-2 week of play in the conference. The Mustangs fell to No. 2 in the conference Pacific and No. 3 in the conference Cal State Northridge.

Cal Poly is 1-4 in its last five matches and carries a three-match losing streak into the match against the Cougars. The Mustangs had a good blocking week, recording 26 total team blocks over two matches. Worthy Lien recorded 12 blocks in the two matches, while teammate Anya Douglas finished with 11 blocks. Lien also led the Mustangs in kills with 27 combined kills in last week's two matches.

SERIES NOTES

BYU is 8-4 all-time against Cal Poly and holds the series advantage. They are 7-0 at home against the Mustangs, but carry a losing record against Cal Poly at neutral sites (1-3). The last meeting with the Mustangs was Oct. 2, 1992, when the Cougars won in three-straight games. The Cougars have won the last three meetings against the Mustangs.

Long Beach St. (25-0, 18-0 Big West)

A BRIEF LOOK AT THE 49ers

Long Beach State is in the midst of a season to remember. The 49ers are the only undefeated team in the country, and recently clinched the Big West Championship outright, with wins against Utah State and Idaho last week. The title was the eighth title in 17 years for the 49ers.

The 49ers have been on top in the polls for the six consecutive weeks. Long Beach recorded two wins this week, Monday in a make-up match against Idaho (3-0), and Tuesday against Utah State (3-0). The wins cap an undefeated season in league play, becoming the sixth team in Big West history to finish league play with a perfect record.

The 49ers are led by senior Tayyiba Haneef, last week's Big West Player of the Week. At 6-foot-7, Haneef has an advantage against most players and uses it to her advantage. Last week, Haneef recorded 36 kills in two victories while averaging 6 kills, 2.50 digs and 0.67 service aces. Hitting .516, Haneef is as accurate as she is powerful.

SERIES NOTES

The Cougars are 5-12 all-time against the 49ers. While BYU has found some success at home, the Cougars are 1-4 all-time in Long Beach. The Cougars snapped a seven-match losing streak, defeating Long Beach State in five games, Sept. 9, 2000. The match was in the championship game of the Mizuno Classic in Provo.

Puikkonen Honored On and Off the Court

BYU Middle Blocker Earns All-Conference, All-Tournament and National Academic Awards

Nina Puikkonen added yet another award to her collegiate career, winning MWC all-conference and all-tournament honors and being named a Vorizon Academic All-America Team. Named to the MWC all-conference team, Puikkonen has been named to the team in each of her four years as a player. Despite a lost in the semifinals of the 2001 MWC Tournament, Puikkonen's solid performance against Wyoming and double-double effort against Utah earned her a spot on the 2001 MWC all-tournament team.

Puikkonen has made an effort in the classroom as well, being named an academic all-American for the second time in her career. Puikkonen was selected to the 2001 Vorizon Academic District VIII Second Team with a 3.44 GPA in Zoology. Puikkonen stepped up her academic game after being selected tot the third team the previous year.

Puikkonen adds these recent awards to three all-conference selections, 1998 WAC Freshman of the Year, 1999 MWC Player of the Year, MVP of the 2000 MWC tournament and three-time all-American citations.

BYU BRIEF OUTLOOK

The 2001 Cougars are led by first-team AVCA All-American middle blocker Nina Puikkonen and NCAA All-West Region rightside hitter Sunny Tonga Mahe. Mahe is a junior in 2001 while Puikkonen is one of three seniors returning with significant court experience. She is joined by fellow seniors Jackie Bundy, an All-MWC middle blocker who finished 12th nationally in blocking last year, and Natalie Whittaker, BYU's top reserve last season. The Cougars also return setter Karina Puikkonen, who earned all-conference honors last year as a freshman. While Michaelis returns four all-conference starters, she will need to replace the services of starting outside hitters Melissa Layton and Kalani Tonga. Reserve middle blocker Alyssa Barrus and backup setter Martha Brinton also won't return in 2001. Both players decided to leave on an 18-month mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with Barrus to serve in Washington, D.C. and Brinton in Switzerland. Whittaker, junior transfer Allison Holsten Larson and the redshirt freshman tandem of Lindsey Steele and Becky Warnick all are talented players with the potential to fill the void left on the outside. Freshman Lauren Richards could play outside or setter. A solid freshmen recruiting class join sophomore Carrie Bowers (middle blocker/rightside hitter), sophomore Uila Crabbe (defensive specialist) and junior Michelle Mahaffey (defensive specialist) to provide Michaelis with a strong supporting cast. Last year, the Cougars were ranked second nationally in blocking and eighth in hitting and should continue to excel in those categories in 2001. With Karina Puikkonen having a year of experience on her resume and setting many of the same hitters, BYU's offense should again be one of the nation's most potent. The Cougar block could be the nation's best with Puikkonen and Bundy in the middle.

BYU LAST WEEK

BYU went 1-1 last week with a win against Wyoming in the quarterfinals of the MWC tournament, and a loss to Utah in the semifinals. Nina Puikkonen played well, recording a .44 attack percentage while hitting 14 kills against Wyoming. Puikkonen had another outstanding performance against the Utes, hitting .611 with 21 kills and 11 digs.

A FEW GOOD WOMEN

BYU players made a good showing on the all-conference and all-tournament teams last week. BYU garnered four spots an the all-conference team with sisters Nina (MB) and Karina (S) Puikkonen, AVCA/ Sports Imports National Player of the Week Sunny Mahe (OH) and Uila Crabbe (DS). In the MWC tournament, Nina Puikkonen and Crabbe returned to the spotlight, despite losing in the semifinals.

ENDANGERED RECORD

BYU has recorded 20-win seasons for the past 27 seasons. Stuck at 19 wins, the Cougars are looking for a win this weekends to reach the 20-win mark for the 28th consecutive time.

RECORD ANALYSIS

BYU is 15-3 this year in three-game matches. The Cougars are 4-2 when going four games and 1-2 in five-game contests.

PUIKKONEN EARNED SIXTH CAREER CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Senior middle blocker Nina Puikkonen was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Week along with Colorado State's Courtney Cox on Oct. 29. Puikkonen led BYU to three road wins, averaging 5.00 kills, 2.30 digs, 2.30 blocks and hitting .438 for the week. She had the Cougars' top attack percentage and totaled team bests of 50 kills and 23 blocks. She was third with 23 digs behind team-leader Natalie Whittaker's 26 and DS Uila Crabbe's 25. After recording 24 kills, 14 digs, eight blocks and a .500 attack percentage in a tough five-game loss at No. 18 Utah, Puikkonen continued her hot play. She started the week by nearly putting up another triple-double with 21 kills, a season-high 18 digs and nine blocks while hitting .400 at Sacramento State. At Air Force, Puikkonen again had match highs with 17 kills and 10 blocks (equaling a season high) in just three games while hitting a season-best .609. Puikkonen recorded 12 kills, five digs and four blocks while hitting .318 against New Mexico.

RARE HOME LOSING STREAK

The Cougars lost a regular season match to Colorado State in Provo for the first time since 1984 with the 24-30, 28-30, 27-30 defeat. Having lost its prior home match to Utah State (0-3) on Oct. 16, BYU suffered consecutive home losses for the first time since September 1996 when the Cougars lost three straight to Pacific, Pepperdine and Long Beach State. It marked the first time since September of 1992 that BYU had been swept in consecutive home matches (swept in three straight matches by UCLA, Florida and Stanford). In BYU's 33-year recorded history, the Cougars have only had eight occasions when they have suffered a multiple-match home losing streak. The Cougars longest home losing streak is four matches (lost to USC last match of 1991, then lost three straight in first three home matches of 1992 to UCLA, Florida and Stanford).

BYU IN MWC PLAY

BYU finished regular MWC play with a 10-4 record. In the conference tournament, the Cougars beat Wyoming in three games in the the first match. Facing Utah in the semifinals, BYU fell in four close games. The Utes advanced to the championship match and defeated No. 1 seed Colorado State for the league tournament title. Overall, BYU has a 357-38 (.904) series record against MWC teams.

PUIKKONEN DOUBLE-DIGIT STREAK

Nina Puikkonen had her string of consecutive matches with 10 or more kills come to an end After double-digit kills against Wyoming (14) and Utah (Puikkonen had 28 double-digit kills matches last season.

DOUBLE-DIGITS DOUBLE-DOUBLES

Nina Puikkonen recorded a team-leading 11 double-doubles so far this season for the Cougars.

NINA PASSES ANOTHER MILESTONE

Puikkonen moved into fourth place, passing Amy Steele Gant, on BYU's career block solos list with her solo block at Air Force. She added nine block assists at Air Forece to equal her season-best 10 blocks. Puikkonen needs six more block solos to move into third place past Jill Plumb. Puikkonen is second all-time in block assists and total blocks at BYU and is the school's leader in blocks per game.

1,100 AND COUNTING

BYU coach Elaine Michaelis has coached 1,114 recorded (since 1969) matches. She has won nearly 80 percent of those matches, with 886 wins. She is second in all-time Division I victories.

TRIPLE-DOUBLE

Senior middle blocker Jackie Bundy has recorded BYU's only triple double of the year. She had her first career triple-double in BYU's win over No. 23 Colorado. She totaled 15 kills, 12 digs and a season-high 10 blocks on the night.

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