Weekly Release #4 -- BYU Hosts Utah

BYU's women's volleyball team returns to action Thursday after the cancelation of last week's matches due to the terrorist attacks on the United States. The No. 14 Cougars host No. 21 Utah at the Smith Fieldhouse at 7 p.m. in a battle between two nationally ranked rivals. The match will be broadcast live on KBYU-TV, channel 11, and on BYU-TV, which is available on the Dish Network 500, DirectTV and some cable systems.

The Cougars are off to a 5-1 start, with their lone loss to No. 25 Texas. The Utes are 4-2 with losses to No. 3 Arizona and Louisville. The Cougars and Utes have played two common opponents this year, both earning 3-2 wins over then No. 23 Colorado and a 3-0 win over Rhode Island.

BYU enters the match with a 14-match overall home win streak in the Smith Fieldhouse. The Cougars have earned 19 straight victories over the Utes at home and are 29-1 all-time record vs. Utah in the Smith Fieldhouse. Utah's lone win in Provo was a 3-2 win on Sept. 21, 1985 at the BYU Invitational. BYU holds a 60-7 advantage in the overall series, including a 2-1 record last year against the Utes.

Last week the Cougars matches in Honolulu against Loyola Marymount University and No. 12 Hawai'i were canceled.

THIS WEEK'S MATCH

Thursday, Sept. 20

No. 14 BYU (5-1) vs. No. 21 Utah (4-2)

Smith Fieldhouse (5,000) o Provo, Utah

7 p.m. MDT

STATS COMPARISON

Attack Percentage .239 / .226

Kills per game 15.8 / 14.4

Assists per game 14.0 / 13.4

Aces per game 1.7 / 1.3

Digs per game 14.9 / 13.0

Blocks per game 3.4 / 3.1

BYU's PROBABLE STARTERS

No. Name (Year / Pos.)

5 Karina Puikkonen (So. / S)

9 Nina Puikkonen (Sr. / MB)

2 Natalie Whittaker (Sr. / OH)

15 Sunny Mahe (Jr. / RS)

10 Jackie Bundy (Sr. / MB)

12 Uila Crabbe (So. / DS)

7 Allison Holsten Larson (Jr. / OH)

4 Becky Warnick (Fr. / OH)

SERIES INFO

BYU holds a 60-7 advantage in the overall series, including a 2-1 record last year against the Utes. BYU enters the match with a two-match winning streak vs. Utah and a 14-match overall home win streak in the Smith Fieldhouse. BYU has 19 straight victories over the Utes at home and a 29-1 all-time record vs. Utah in the Smith Fieldhouse. Utah's lone win in Provo was a 3-2 win on Sept. 21, 1985 at the BYU Invitational.

QUOTING MICHAELIS

"Utah has its traditionally good team and has been ranked all season. We both have strengths in the middle and on the rightside and have some new people on the outsides. We are fortunate to have an experienced setter in Karina (Puikkonen). They have two freshman setters but their hitters are experienced and very good. This should be an outstanding match between two nationally ranked teams. "

LOOKING AT UTAH

The Utes return four starters from last year's 23-8 team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament and earned a top-20 national ranking.

This year the Utes are 4-2 with a perfect 4-0 record at home and a road loss at No. 3 Arizona and a neutral court loss to in Tucson to Louisville. The Utes have played two common opponents with BYU thus far this year. Both Utah and BYU achieved 3-2 wins over then No. 23 Colorado and a 3-0 victory over Rhode Island. Utah's other two wins were over good teams with a 3-0 sweep of Georgia Tech and a 3-1 victory over Texas Tech.

Junior transfer Sylva Strzinkova, a 6-1 outside hitter, has a team-best 60 kills (3.00 kpg) for the Utes while returners Alisa Geddes (53 kills), Adrianne Bradley-Drake (50 kills), Kim Turner (49 kills) and McKelle Stilson (45 kills) make up a very balanced hitting corp. Stilson hits an efficient .310 attack percentage while Strzinkova (2.80 dpg) and Geddes (2.38 dpg) average more than two digs per game. MWC Freshman of the Year Kim Turner averages a team-best 1.48 blocks per game in the middle.

The Utes are primarily running a 6-2 offensive system with two freshmen setters in Kelsie Kartchner and Tracy Neumeier. Kartchner, from Pleasant Grove, has appeared in all 21 games and has 157 assists (7.48 apg), while Neumeier, from La Canada, Calif., has played in 18 games with 96 assists (5.33 apg).

As a team, Utah is hitting .226 while allowing a .157 attack percentage and is blocking well with a 3.12 blocks per game average compared to its opponent blocks per game average of 1.93.

UTAH GENERAL INFO

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Enrollment: 25,803

Nickname: Utes

Colors: Crimson and White

Facility: Crimson Court (1,500)

Conference: Mountain West

VOLLEYBALL INFO

Series Record: 60-7-0

Last Meeting: 2000

Result: BYU (3-1)

Head Coach: Beth Launiere

Overall Record (Years): 203-146 (11)

Record at School (Years): 203-146 (11)

Assistant Coaches: Matt McShane, Zuzana Zikova

2000 Overall Record: 23-8

2000 Conference Record/Finish: 10-4/3rd

2000 Final Ranking/Post Season

Finish: 20th/ Second round

PLAYER INFO

Starters Returning/Lost: 4/2

Letterwinners Returning/Lost:10/6

Top Returners:

Kim Turner, 6-2, So., MB

McKelle Stilson, 6-1, Sr., MB

Top Newcomers:

Shelly Hundley, 6-1, Fr., OH

Sylva Strzinkova, 6-1, Jr., OH

SPORTS INFO

Volleyball Contact: Julie Lapomarda

Phone: (801) 581-3771

FAX: (801) 581-4358

Courtside Phone: (801) 585-9560

E-mail: jlampadora@huntsman.utah.edu

Website: www.utahutes.com

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 will be 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. 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.

FILLING OUTSIDE SPOTS

With four all-conference starters returning, BYU coach Elaine Michaelis has had to replace her two starting outside hitters from last season. Senior Natalie Whittaker has played all 23 games at one outside spot, while redshirt freshman Becky Warnick (15 games) and junior college transfer Allison Larson (12 games) have each seen time on the front row at the other spot. Sophomore defensive specialist Uila Crabbe has played back row in all 23 games this year.

BYU's LAST ACTION

BYU defeated Rhode Island Monday, 3-0, before winning the Mizuno Classic with a 3-2 win over No. 23 Colorado and a 3-0 win over Southwest Missouri State. Both the Buffaloes and Bears entered the Mizuno Classic with 3-0 records after winning tournaments the opening week.

POINTS

On the year, Nina Puikkonen leads the Cougars with 115 points (5.00 ppg), followed by Sunny Mahe with 108.5 (4.70 ppg) and Jackie Bundy with 87.0 (3.78 ppg).

MAHE OFF TO HOT START

o After earning all-tournament honors last week at the Point Huskies Invitational, Sunny Mahe earned her first college tournament MVP award this week being selected tournament MVP of the Mizuno Classic. She helped the Cougars to a perfect 3-0 record at home during the week.

o Mahe led the team with 19 blocks (1.73 bpg) and 7 service aces (0.64 sapg) and was second in kills (3.18 kpg) and digs (2.27 dpg). Hitting .400 for the week, Mahe had the best attack percentage among Cougar hitters.

o Mahe led BYU to the Mizuno Classic title, hitting .667 against Southwest Missouri State, recording a match-high 14 kills with only 2 errors in 18 attempts. She also added 9 blocks, 7 digs and a career-best 4 service aces in the win over the Bears. She totaled 22.5 points in three games.

o Mahe recorded 11 kills, 9 digs, 6 blocks, 5 assists and 1 ace in BYU's win over No. 23 Colorado. She hit .421 vs. Rhode Island with 10 kills in 19 attempts with only two errors while contributing 9 digs and 4 blocks.

o Mahe averaged 11.7 kills, 8.3 digs, 6.3 blocks and 2.3 services aces per match in the three contests.

o Mahe totaled 52.0 points for the week, the team's second-highest point output for the week behind All-American Nina Puikkonen's 57.5 points.

o On the year, Mahe is averaging 3.48 kills, 2.09 digs, 1.39 blocks and 0.48 service aces while hitting .358 (80-18-173) in six matches (23 games).

WINNING STREAKS

BYU has a four-match winning streak. The Cougars are 3-0 at home this year and own a 14-match home winning streak dating back to last season. The last team to defeat BYU in the Smith Fieldhouse was nationally ranked Arizona on Sept. 15, 2000.

PLAYER HONORS

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.

JACKIE BUNDY

Senior middle blocker Jackie Bundy recorded her first career triple-double in BYU's win over No. 23 Colorado last week. She totaled 15 kills, 12 digs and a season-high 10 blocks on the night. For the week, she averaged 3.00 kills, 2.27 digs and 1.64 blocks while hitting .253.

NINA MOVING UP CAREER CHARTS

All-American Nina Puikkonen moved past former Cougar All-American Gale Johnson into fifth place on BYU's all-time kills list with her third kill in BYU's win over Rhode Island on Monday. Despite not being 100 percent yet while recovering from summer surgery on her left leg, Puikkonen totaled 45 kills for the week and now has 1,368 career kills (3.89 kpg career average). She is 387 kills from fourth place. She has 682 career blocks and needs just 13 total blocks to move into second place past Amy Steele Gant. She has 590 block assists, just five shy of passing Gant into second place and has 92 block solos, nine short of overtaking Gant into fourth and 17 shy of taking over third place from Jill Plumb and 42 solos from claiming second place from Raelyn Hogland. Puikkonen averaged 4.09 kills, 1.64 blocks and 1.55 digs last week, with season-high 10 blocks vs. SMS.

KARINA PUIKKONEN

Sophomore setter Karina Puikkonen had the team's best individual attack percentage for the second straight week, hitting a team-leading .429 percentage while totaling 18 kills (1.64 kpg). She set a new career high with 10 kills vs. Colorado while hitting a match-high .529 with only one error in 17 attempts. She averaged 11.45 assists, 1.55 digs, and 0.82 blocks for the week and set BYU to a .262 team attack percentage.

MAHE EARNS FIRST MWC PLAYER OF THE WEEK AWARD

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.

ELAINE MICHAELIS PROFILE

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 872-217-5 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 25-3 in MWC play in two years and now has an overall conference mark of 346-33. 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.

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