Weekly Release #11 -- BYU Plays at UNLV, SDSU

BYU Finishes MWC Regular Season at UNLV, SDSU

The BYU women's volleyball team returns to the road this week for its final two Mountain West Conference regular season matches. The Cougars travel to face UNLV Friday and San Diego State Saturday. Both matches begin at 7 p.m. PT.

BYU enters the week with a four-match road victory streak and a 17-5 overall record. The Cougars (ranked No. 15 by Volleyball magazine and No. 16 by AVCA/USA Today) are in third place in the conference standings with an 8-3 record. The Cougars are 6-2 overall on the road this year, including a 3-2 record in MWC matches.

UNLV is 8-11 overall. The Rebels are alone in fifth place in the conference standings at 5-7. BYU is 9-0 all-time vs. the Rebels, including a three-game victory in Provo this year. BYU is 3-0 in Las Vegas in the series.

San Diego State has a 14-9 record entering the week and is coming off a 3-2 victory at UNLV. The Aztecs are one game behind BYU in the conference race with an 8-4 fourth-place record. BYU won the first meeting in Provo, 3-1. The Cougars are 24-13 against the Aztecs overall. BYU holds a 9-6 advantage in San Diego.

BYU HOSTS 2001 MWC TOURNAMENT NEXT WEEK

BYU hosts the 2001 Mountain West Conference Tournament next week at the Smith Fieldhouse. The championship begins with four matches (11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m.) on Thursday, Nov. 15. The No. 1 seed faces No. 8, No. 2 vs. No. 7, No. 3 vs. No. 6 and No. 4 vs. No. 5. The semifinals (4 p.m. and 7 p.m.) are held Friday and the title match is scheduled for a 2 p.m. start Saturday. Host BYU will play the 7 p.m. match on Thursday. All matches will be televised by SportsWest Productions. BYU won last year's championship in Fort Collins, Colo., and Colorado State won the the inaugural title in Provo in 1999. Media credentials can be requested by contacting Ron Christian at the Mountain West Conference (719-488-4050).

Friday, Nov. 9, 2001

No. 15 BYU (17--5, 9-3 MWC) at UNLV (8-11, 5-7 MWC)

Cox Pavilion • Las Vegas, Nev. • 7 p.m. PT

Saturday, Nov. 10, 2001

No. 15 BYU at San Diego State (14-9, 8-4 MWC)*

Peterson Gym (3,668) • San Diego, Calif. • 7 p.m. PT

* San Diego State hosts Utah Friday

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

OPPONENT NOTES

UNLV

8-11 overall

5-7 Mountain West

QUICK LOOK AT THE REBELS

UNLV is 8-11 overall. The Rebels are alone in fifth place in the conference standings at 5-7. UNLV hits .227 as a team and its opponents have a .212 attack percentage. The Rebels average 3.2 blocks per game. Sheila Ocasio-Clemente has led the nation in blocking for eight straight weeks. She currently averages 2.09 blocks per game. Leiana Oswald leads the team with 202 kills (2.89 kpg) while Blair Wilkes is right behind with 201 kills (2.87 kpg).

SERIES INFO

BYU is 9-0 all-time vs. the Rebels, including a three-game victory in Provo this year. BYU is 3-0 in Las Vegas in the series.

FIRST MEETING VS. THE REBELS

PROVO -- All-American Nina Puikkonen recorded 15 kills to lead No. 14 BYU to a 3-0 sweep of UNLV Saturday at the Smith Fieldhouse. The Cougars improved to 12-2 overall and 6-1 in the Mountain West Conference with their 30-21, 33-31, 30-19 victory.

After Michaelis' team turned a 19-16 advantage in game one into a 30-21 win, the Cougars found themselves down 14-7 in game two, thanks to a strong serving string by UNLV's Leiana Oswald. After a timeout, BYU came back with three straight points and eventually tied the match at 25-all on a Jackie Bundy service ace.

Natalie Whittaker was the defensive key to the 33-31 come-from-behind win in game two, coming up with eight of her match-high 13 digs during the game. "If I get a couple really good digs it really bring me into the game more," Whittaker said. She also finished the night with six kills.

The Cougars turned the table on the Rebels in game three, jumping out to their own 14-7 lead. The Cougars, however, did not allow UNLV to get any momentum and cruised to the 30-19 win in the decisive game.

BYU hit .228 on the night with 50 kills while holding the Rebels to a .161 percentage on 38 kills. The Cougars out blocked UNLV 10.5 to 10 to improve to 12-0 this year when they out block their opponents. BYU came up with 52 digs to the UNLV's 42 and tied a season high with nine aces, led by Bundy who set a personal career best with four aces on the night.

Sunny Mahe joined Puikkonen in double-digit kills, putting down 11. Bundy, who added nine kills, shared team-high honors in blocks with Mahe and Puikkonen as each player totaled five.

Sheila Ocasio-Clemente was the only Rebel to reach double figures in kills with 10. She hit .400 on the night with only two errors in 20 attempts. UNLV dropped to 5-9 overall and 2-5 in the conference with the loss.

San Diego State

14-9 overall

8-4 Mountain West

QUICK LOOK AT THE AZTECS

San Diego State has a 14-9 record entering the week and is coming off a 3-2 victory at UNLV. The Aztecs are one game behind BYU in the conference race withan 8-4 fourth-place record. The Aztecs have suffered all four losses to Colorado State (twice), Utah and BYU. San Diego State plays Utah Friday before hosting the Cougars Saturday. San Diego State hits .239 as a team while its opponents hit .230. The Aztecs average 2.63 blocks per game. Zlatina Anguelova averages a team-leading 3.66 kills per game.

SERIES INFO

BYU won the first meeting in Provo, 3-1. The Cougars are 24-13 against the Aztecs overall. BYU holds a 9-6 advantage in San Diego. BYU has won 10 straight in the series. The Aztecs last win (3-2) was in San Diego in 1996.

FIRST MEETING VS. THE AZTECS

PROVO -- All-American Nina Puikkonen was one block away from a triple-double in the Cougars victory over SDSU, 30-27, 15-30, 30-28, 31-29. BYU improves to 11-2 overall and 5-1 in the conference, while the Aztecs fall to 10-5 overall and 4-2 in Mountain West Conference play.

"SDSU is a very good team," BYU head coach Elaine Michaelis said. "The Aztecs were very aggressive on the attack."

On the way to recording the 19th-straight home win, the Cougars struggled in the second game. "The serve was aggressive and we didn't pass very well," Michaelis said.

Puikkonen recorded a season-high 21 kills along with 12 digs and nine blocks in front of 2,429 fans, a season high attendance for the Smith Fieldhouse.

Jackie Bundy recorded 12 kills, many of which powered the Cougars through a late fourth-game rally to win the match. "I wasn't prepared for their blocking to be as good as it was," Bundy said. "We made some adjustments and we were able to get some kills through."

"Jackie (Bundy) helped the team with her strong serves," Michaelis said. "In both games she served a string of points that disrupted the Aztec offense."

The Aztecs featured Zlatina Anguelova who finished 23 kills, 11 digs and nine blocks against the Cougars.

BYU's Sunny Mahe had 11 kills and Lauren Richards had 10 kills, making them two of four Cougars that finished with 10 or more kills.Michaelis attributed some of the 37 team hitting errors to poor passing. "Passing is something that we will be working on," she said.

COUGAR NOTES

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 2-1 last week with a road win at Weber State and a home win over Wyoming surrounding a loss to No. 6 Colorado State at home. BYU hit .265 as a team last week while its opponents had a .196 attack percentage. The Cougars averaged 17.40 kills per game in the three matches. Sophomore setter Karina Puikkonen hit .586 for the week with 20 kills (2.00 kpg) and averaged 13.50 assists per game. She also averaged 1.90 digs per game. She tied her career-high with a MWC season-high 67 assists at Weber State Tuesday. She tied her career-high match attack percentage, hitting .667 (9-1-12) against Wyoming. Sunny Mahe led BYU with 38 kills (4.22 kpg) in nine games last week. She had a team-high 20 kills in BYU's win over Weber State.

RECORD ANALYSIS

BYU is 12-3 this year in three-game matches. The Cougars are 4-0 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 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.

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

At 9-3, BYU has three losses in league play for the first time in the three-year existence of the Mountain West Conference. The Cougars won the inaugural season with a 13-1 mark and finished second in 2000 with a 12-2 record. BYU's combined six conference regular season losses over the three years have all come against Colorado State (4) and Utah (2). Overall, BYU has a 355-36 (.908) 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 Friday in BYU's loss to No. 6 Colorado State. She had season lows of 13 attempts and three kills. She rebounded with 10 kills against Wyoming on Saturday and now has 21 double-digit kills games this year. The last time she failed to reach double figures in kills was in the Cougars' season-ending loss to Arizona in the NCAA Regional Semifinals last year in Lincoln, Neb.(she had eight kills). Puikkonen had 28 double-digit kills matches last season.

NINA SETS DIGS FOUR-GAME HIGH

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.

DOUBLE-DIGITS DOUBLE-DOUBLES

Nina Puikkonen recorded her team-leading 10th double-double of the year with 17 kills and 10 digs at Weber State.

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.

STREAK ENDS

BYU had its 20 match home winning streak come to an end 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.

BUNDY RECENTLY

Senior middle blocker Jackie Bundy had a double-double (14 kills, 10 digs) in the return to her hometown of Sacramento. She hit a season-high .526 with 13 kills to lead BYU to a 3-0 victory at New Mexico. She averaged 3.5 kills per game last week. Bundy has reached double figures in kills 13 times this year, including a team-high 12 kills in BYU's win over Wyoming Saturday.

1,100 AND COUNTING

BYU coach Elaine Michaelis has coached 1,110th recorded (since 1969) matches. She has won nearly 80 percent of those matches, with 884 wins. She is second in all-time Division I victories.

POINTS

On the year, Nina Puikkonen leads the Cougars with 393 points (5.17 ppg), followed by Sunny Mahe with 337.5 (4.56 ppg) and Jackie Bundy with 307.5 (4.10 ppg).

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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