Weekly Release #10 -- BYU Hosts CSU, Wyoming

After earning its fourth straight road win Tuesday at Weber State, BYU (ranked No. 14 by Volleyball magazine and No. 16 by AVCA/USA Today) returns home to face Mountain West Conference leader Colorado State (ranked No. 8 by Volleyball magazine and No. 6 by AVCA/USA Today) Friday and Wyoming Saturday at the Smith Fieldhouse. Both matches start at 7 p.m. Friday's match will be televised on KBYU-TV, channel 11, and on BYU-TV, available on Dish Network 500 and DirectTV.


Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2001

BYU defeated Weber St. (3-1)

Dee Events Center (11,500) • Ogden, Utah

Friday, Nov. 2, 2001

No. 14/16 BYU vs. No. 8/6 Colorado St. (19-0, 9-0 MWC)

Smith Fieldhouse (5,000) • Provo, Utah • 7 p.m. MT • KBYU-TV, BYU-TV

Saturday, Nov. 3, 2001

BYU vs. Wyoming (8-10, 3-6 MWC)*

Smith Fieldhouse (5,000) • Provo, Utah • 7 p.m. MT

* Wyoming plays at No. 15 Utah Friday


Karina Puikkonen tossed up a career-best 67 assists Tuesday as BYU defeated Weber State 30-25, 27-30, 30-27, 30-22 at the Dee Events Center. The Cougars earned their fourth straight road win. Puikkonen's 67 assists equaled her career high set last year and is the highest total achieved by a Mountain West Conference setter this season. She also was effective with her own attack, hitting a match-best .455 percentage with seven successful dumps in 11 attempts with only two errors. The Cougars hit a sizzling .459 in the first game to overpower Weber State despite the Wildcats' impressive .342 offensive attack. When BYU cooled off in game two, hitting .146, Weber State continued to play well and evened the match with an efficient .324 attack percentage for the game. BYU rebounded in game three while holding the Wildcats to a .095 attack and eased to a 30-22 victory in the decisive fourth game. Nina Puikkonen, who earned MWC Co-Player of the Week honors Monday, posted her 10th double-double of the year, tops this year among MWC players along with Utah's Sylva Strzinkova. She finished with 17 kills and 10 digs and added a team-best six blocks. Four Cougars recorded double-figures kills, led by Sunny Mahe with 20. Jackie Bundy added 14 and Lauren Richards equaled a personal best with 12 kills. Natalie Whittaker had a match-high 13 digs for the Cougars. Overall, BYU hit .280 for the match with Weber State maintaining a .215 attack percentage. With Tuesday's win, the Cougars are a perfect 50-0 against the Wildcats, including a 21-0 mark in Ogden.


Colorado State

19-0 overall

9-0 Mountain West


Colorado State enters the week with a perfect 19-0 record, including a 9-0 Mountain West Conference mark. The Rams moved up from two spots to No. 6 in the AVCA coaches poll this week (ranked 8th by Volleyball magazine). The MWC leader hits a sizzling .344 (2nd in nation) as a team, averages 17.93 kills (1st in nation) and 3.58 blocks (4th in nation) per game. The Rams have won their last 11 matches in three-game sweeps and have only had to go to four games three times all year while achieving their perfect record. Angela Knopf hits an amazing .490 and averages 4.43 kills while Courtney Cox adds 4.24 kills per game. Cox earned MWC Co-Player of the Week honors Monday along with BYU's Nina Puikkonen. Allison Peckham tosses up 14.07 assists per game to guide the strong Ram attack.


BYU is 22-3 against Colorado State at home and is 42-11-1 all-time vs. the Rams. The last Ram victory in Provo was in the 1999 MWC Tournament Championship match. The Rams swept the Cougars in that match. BYU had not been swept at home since then until its last home match Oct. 16 when Utah State swept the Cougars in Provo. The Rams swept the Cougars in Fort Collins in the first meeting this year, the only other time this season BYU has lost in three games.


8-10 overall

3-6 Mountain West


After earning a 6-3 record in its first nine matches, Wyoming has lost seven of its last nine contests, including its last three straight. Wyoming plays at No. 15 Utah on Friday before meeting BYU Saturday in the Smith Fieldhouse. The Cowgirls are 8-10 overall and 3-6 in the Mountain West Conference with league wins over UNLV, Air Force and New Mexico. All three Wyoming wins in conference play have been on the road. The Cowgirls are 3-3 overall on the road this year. Rachel Lau hits .202 and averages 3.65 kills while Michele Rauter adds 3.50 kills with a .269 hitting percentage to lead the Cowgirl attack. Rauter averages a team-best 2.36 digs per game while Lau's 1.09 blocks per game leads the Cowgirls. As a team, Wyoming hits .207.


BYU is 24-1 at home all-time vs. Wyoming and holds a 48-3 advantage in the series overall. BYU won the first meeting this year in Laramie, winning in three games. BYU has won 20 straight matches in the series.


BYU's Probable Starters

No. Name. Year Pos.

15 Sunny Mahe Jr. RS

9 Nina Puikkonen Sr. MB

2 Natalie Whittaker Sr. OH

5 Karina Puikkonen So. S

10 Jackie Bundy Sr. MB

11 Lauren Richards Fr. OH

12 Uila Crabbe So. DS


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 bounced back from its first back-to-back defeats in more than a year by winning three straight road matches in as many nights in three different states. The Cougars hit .259 while defeating then 15-5 Sacramento State (28-30, 30-18, 30-21, 30-28) Thursday, hit .319 to win at Air Force (30-19, 30-18, 30-23) Friday, and hit .355 in a victory at New Mexico (30-38, 30-38, 30-21) Saturday. BYU held the Falcons to .000 attack percentage Friday. BYU hit a .302 team attack percentage in its three wins while holding its opponents to a .109 hitting percentage. BYU averaged 17.4 kills compared to its opponents 11.8 and also out blocked the opposition 3.4 bpg to 2.0 bpg. Five of BYU's six starters hit .240 or better this week. Freshman Lauren Richards hit .153 while averaging 2.50 kills per game.


Puikkonen led BYU in points last week with 63 points, averaging 6.3 points per game. She averaged 16.7 kills, 7.7 digs and 7.7 blocks per match in BYU's three road wins.


Senior middle blocker Nina Puikkonen was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Week along with Colorado State's Courtney Cox on Monday. 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 recorded 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 last week. 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 on Thursday. Friday night 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. Saturday, Puikkonen recorded 12 kills, five digs and four blocks while hitting .318.


Puikonen's 18 digs at Sacramento State was one shy of her career high of 19 (vs. Hawaii), and is a new personal best in a four-game match.


Nina Puikkonen has reached double-digit kills in all 20 matches this year. She recorded her 10th double-double efforts of the season at Weber State Tuesday. She has had a double-double in four of the last five matches she has played. She is tied for first in the Mountain West Conference in double-doubles.


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 seven 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.


Nina Puikkonen had 17 kills, 10 digs, 6 blocks at Weber State Tuesday and has been on a tear of late. Stating after the Utah match (BYU's last loss) that she felt like she was finally on an upward slope with her play and confidence related to some injuries, Puikkonen has made that confidence translate to the court, nearly averaging a triple-double in the four matches prior to this week (18.5 kills, 9.3 digs, 7.8 blocks per match), while hitting a .459 attack percentage. She averaged 4.93 kills, 2.47 digs, 2.07 blocks and 6.07 points per game during the four-match stretch.


BYU suffered its first back-to-back defeats with losses to Utah State and Utah since losing to Utah State and nationally ranked Arizona last September. Utah State earned a top-25 ranking last year after its upset of BYU and returned again to the rankings this year at No. 25 after defeating BYU.


BYU had its 20 match home winning streak come to an end last in its last home match on Oct. 16 in a 0-3 loss to Utah State in the Smith Fieldhouse. It was the first time the Cougars have been swept at home since losing to Colorado State in the 1999 Mountain West Conference Tournament title match. The last team to defeat BYU in the Smith Fieldhouse before the Aggies was nationally ranked Arizona on Sept. 15, 2000.


BYU's two conference defeats have been at nationally ranked Colorado State and Utah -- repeating the Cougars' conference losses of last year. BYU finished the MWC season last year with a 12-2 record.


Senior middle blocker Jackie Bundy hit .400 in BYU's three wins last week, and averaged 3.44 kills and a team-best 0.44 aces per game. She had a double-double (14 kills, 10 digs) in the return to her hometown of Sacramento Thursday. She hit .429, playing only two games at Air Force, and hit a season-high .526 with 13 kills to lead BYU to a 3-0 victory over New Mexico. Bundy has reached double figures in kills 12 times this year.


BYU coach Elaine Michaelis has coached 1,108th recorded (since 1969) matches. She has won nearly 80 percent of those matches, with 883 wins. She is second in all-time Division I victories.


BYU has achieved nine of its last 12 wins in three-game sweeps. BYU is 11-2 overall in three-game matches this year. With its four-game win over Weber State, BYU is 4-0 when going four games. The Cougars are 1-2 in five-game contests this year.


On the year, Nina Puikkonen leads the Cougars with 374 points (5.34 ppg), followed by Sunny Mahe with 317.5 (4.59 ppg) and Jackie Bundy with 283.5 (4.10 ppg).


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.


Mahe Becomes Third Cougar to Ever Earn the National Honor

Sunny Mahe, a 6-2 junior right side/opposite hitter for the 14th-ranked BYU Cougars (9-1), was selected the AVCA/Sports Imports Division I National Player of the Week on Oct. 1. Mahe also garnered Mountain West Conference Player of the Week honors for the second time this year and the third time during her career. Mahe hit a team-best .554 attack percentage to guide the Cougars to three 3-0 victories last week with wins over then-No. 19 UC Santa Barbara, New Mexico and Air Force. She averaged 4.56 kills, 1.00 blocks, 1.78 digs, 1.11 assists and 0.44 service aces per game. For the week, she tallied 41 kills with just five attack errors on 65 swings. Mahe charted 12 kills, five blocks, six digs and six assists against UC Santa Barbara while hitting .357. She added 13 kills as part of a .647 attack percentage versus New Mexico, followed by a MWC season-high .750 hitting percentage with a match-best 16 kills on 20 attacks against Air Force. Mahe has topped the .600 hitting percentage mark in a match four times this year. Mahe has tallied double-digit kills in each of the last nine matches and ranks third in MWC matches for kills per game (4.33) and hitting percentage (.550). The native of Allen, Texas, is the third BYU player to win the AVCA National Player of the Week award. Current teammate Nina Puikkonen and former Cougar Amy Steele Gant also have won the award, both winning it twice. A first-team AVCA All-American, Puikkonen was the only player in the country to receive the honor twice last season. Gant was recognized in 1996 and 1997.


BYU junior outside hitter Sunny Mahe was named the Mountain West Conference Volleyball Player of the Week Sept. 3, marking the second time overall she has earned the award. A native of Allen, Texas (Allen HS), Mahe led BYU with 45 kills (3.75 per game) and a .330 hitting percentage (45k-11e-103a) as the Cougars posted a 2-1 record at the Washington Tournament in Seattle last weekend. Mahe, who earned all-tournament honors, posted her best numbers of the week in a four-game win against Purdue with a career-high 22 kills, 12 digs, five total blocks and a .724 hitting percentage. She also had nine kills in a sweep of Washington and 14 kills in a five-game loss to Texas. For the week, Mahe racked up 23 digs, (1.92 per game), 13 total blocks (1.08 per game), four aces (.33 per game) and 56.5 points, which ranks second in the MWC.


BYU's Sunny Mahe earned Mizuno Classic MVP honors while Nina Puikkonen, Jackie Bundy and Karina Puikkonen were selected to the all-tournament team along with Rese McNatt of Southwest Missouri State and Elizabeth Gower and Monique Gerlach of Colorado. Mahe and Nina Puikkonen also were named to the Point Huskies Invitational All-Tournament Team.


Now in her 40th year at the helm of the BYU program, Elaine Michaelis also enters her seventh year as Director of Women's Athletics. A proven winner, Michaelis is second all-time in Division I victories with an 883-220-5 record (since records were kept in 1969) and has the most wins ever by a female coach. With BYU's 26-7 record last season, Michaelis posted her 27th consecutive 20-win season and her 29th in 32 years since records have been kept at BYU beginning in 1969. She has never had a losing season. Her team won last year's Mountain West Tournament title after winning the previous season's inaugural MWC regular season title. She has the distinction of winning the inaugural championship in each of the five leagues in which BYU has been a volleyball member. Michaelis is 31-5 in MWC play in three years and now has an overall conference mark of 354-35. She has guided her team to the NCAA tournament 19 times in the 20-year history of NCAA control of the sport, including 11 straight appearances. Her teams have participated in 29 of 32 national tournaments. BYU's two wins last year in the NCAA tournament improved Michaelis' national tournament record to 73-43 (.629). Michaelis is 26-19 (.578) in the NCAA tournament.


BYU is a member of the Mountain West Conference. Six of the eight MWC programs have competed in postseason action over the years while the other two programs have only been in competition since 1996. Since the MWC was founded in 1999, BYU, Colorado State and Utah have represented the conference in the NCAA tournament both seasons. Last year all three teams were ranked in the top 20. Overall, BYU has made 19 NCAA appearances and Colorado State has made 12. The reigning Mountain West Conference Tournament Champions, BYU will again be among the top contenders for the MWC title. The Cougars earned a 25-3 regular season record in the first two years of MWC play after finishing second in 2000 with a 12-2 mark. The Cougars won the inaugural regular season title in 1999 with a 13-1 record before finishing second to Colorado State at the MWC tournament. The Rams won the regular season title last year with a 13-1 record, with the lone loss coming at BYU. The Cougars went on to win last year's MWC Tournament title in Fort Collins, Colo., avenging both regular season conference losses with wins over Utah and Colorado State, ending the Rams' nation-best 44-match home winning streak. The Cougars, Rams and Utes were all top-20 teams in 2000. San Diego State was on the bubble of the NCAA tournament last year.


BYU will host the 2001 MWC Tournament, Nov. 15-17, at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo.