BYU joins Nevada, Gonzaga and host Washington State at Les Schwab Cougar Challenge Friday and Saturday
PROVO -- Ranked 23rd in the USA Today/AVCA Top 25 Poll, BYU opens the 2002 season in Pullman, Wash., Friday and Saturday at the 13th annual Les Schwab Cougar Challenge hosted by Washington State. The Cougars face Gonzaga Friday at 4 p.m. PDT before two matches Saturday. BYU plays Nevada at 10 a.m. PDT and host Washington State in the finale at 7 p.m. PDT.
In the first year under recently appointed head coach Karen Lamb, BYU has an inexperienced but talented team. The Cougars return two starters in All-Mountain West setter Karina Puikkonen and 2001 MWC Co-Defensive Specialist of the Year Uila Crabbe.
Puikkonen averaged 12.65 assists while leading the team with a .400 attack percentage last season. Crabbe averaged 2.47 digs per game a year ago and could see more time on the court this year with the rules change allowing the use of the libero position. The libero is a back-row only player who does not need to substitute out of the game.
Senior outside hitter Allison Larson could be another key performer for the Cougars in 2002. After limited action in her first season in Provo, Larson will have a chance to showcase the talents that earned her NJCAA All-America honors at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Wash. In all, BYU returns eight letterwinners from last year's 20-9 team that lost 3-2 to Utah State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Among the newcomers expected to make an immediate impact is sophomore outside hitter April Varner. The 6-foot transfer played for NCAA runner-up Long Beach State last season after a redshirt year in 2000. Varner was an all-state hitter at Skyline High School in Salt Lake City.
The last meeting between BYU and Gonzaga was a 3-0 Cougar sweep at the 1995 Washington State Cougar Challenge. BYU has yet to drop a game to the Bulldogs with two other victories in Provo. The West Coast Conference school returns four starters and nine letterwinners from last year's 9-17 team that is now under the direction of first-year coach Kip Yoshimura. Sophomore outside hitter Christina Davis returns after leading the Bulldogs last year with 3.13 kills per game.
BYU will face Nevada for only the second time. The first match was a 3-0 Cougar victory back in Provo in 1985. The Wolf Pack returns three starters among four letterwinners from last year's 17-8 team that tied for second in the Western Athletic Conference. Three key seniors return for coach Devin Scrugs (81-59 in five years at Nevada) in middle blocker Michelle More (3.86 kpg), setter Jill Couwenhoven (11.52 apg) and defensive specialist Emily Baracco (2.01 dpg).
BYU faces host Washington State for the eighth time, holding a 5-1-1 advantage in the series. BYU won the last match 3-0 at the 1998 BYU Invitational and is 5-0 at home vs. the Crimson Cougars, but Washington State is 1-0 at home and picked up its only series victory in the prior meeting at the 1995 Cougar Challenge in Pullman. Crimson swept Blue in that match as five of the seven contests have been clean sweeps. BYU won in 1984, 1985, 1989 and 1993, with the 1989 match going five games. The only tie in the series was a 1-1 result in the first meeting on a neutral floor in 1979. Washington State returns six starters and nine letterwinners from last year's 17-12 team that finished sixth in the Pac-10 with a 6-6 mark and hosted the first round of the NCAA tournament, falling to Hawaii in three games. Senior outside hitters LaToya Harris (3.59 kpg) and Adrian Hankoff (3.21 kpg) are two of five returning seniors for coach Cindy Fredrick. Fredrick has compiled a 245-164 record in 13 seasons since taking over the program after BYU's Karen Lamb left in 1989 to take care of her young family when husband Barry accepted a football coaching job at San Diego State. Frederick is 331-224 overall in 17 seasons.
13th Annual Les Schwab Cougar Challenge Volleyball Tournament
Bohler Gym (capacity 3,000)
Friday, August 30
4 p.m. BYU vs. Gonzaga
7 p.m. Washington State vs. Nevada
Saturday, August 31
10 a.m. BYU vs. Nevada
Noon Washington State vs. Gonzaga
5 p.m. Gonzaga vs. Nevada
7 p.m. Washington State vs. BYU