Weekly Release #9 - BYU Plays Three Nights in Three States

BYU Takes extended Road Swing

After suffering back-to-back defeats for the first time in more than a year, BYU's women's volleyball team will stay on the road while playing three straight nights in three different states. The Cougars, ranked 14th by Volleyball magazine and 16th in the AVCA coaches poll, travel to face Sacramento State Thursday, Air Force Friday and New Mexico Saturday.

BYU is 12-4 overall and tied with No. 15 Utah for second in the Mountain West Conference race at 6-2. The Cougars face a good Sacramento State squad Thursday at 7 p.m. (PT) in Hornet Gym. The Hornets have won seven straight entering Tuesday's home match with Nevada and are 14-5 overall this year. They are a perfect 6-0 at home and 8-1 in the Big Sky Conference. BYU has a 2-0 series record against Sacramento State.

The Cougars return to conference play Friday and Saturday to face the two team's at the bottom of the league standings. New Mexico is 3-15 overall and 1-8 in conference play with its lone win coming at home against Air Force. The Falcons are 1-15 on the year and 0-9 in league play.

The Cougars defeated the Falcons and Lobos in Provo in the first meetings this year. BYU has a 7-0 series record vs. Air Force, including three wins in Colorado Springs. BYU is 20-4 in Albuquerque and 49-7 overall against the Lobos.

"This is a long trip, playing three games in three nights in three different states," BYU coach Elaine Michaelis said. "We haven't played our best during the past several weeks but we did play pretty well in our last match even though we lost at Utah. We want to build upon that effort and get back into the win column this week."

THIS WEEK UP CLOSE

Thursday, Oct. 25, 2001

No. 16 BYU (12-4, 6-2 MWC) at Sacramento St. (14-5, 8-1 Big Sky)

Hornet Gym (1,200) • Sacramento, Calif. • 7 p.m. PDT

Friday, Oct. 26, 2001

No. 16 BYU at Air Force (1-15, 0-9 MWC)

East Gym (1,000) • USAF Academy, Colo. (Colo. Springs) • 7 p.m. MDT

Saturday, Oct. 27, 2001

No. 16 BYU at New Mexico (3-15, 1-8 MWC)*

Johnson Arena (5,000) • Albuquerque, N.M. • 7 p.m. MDT

* UNM hosts No. 15 Utah Friday

OPPONENT NOTES

Sacramento State

14-5 overall

8-1 Big Sky

QUICK LOOK AT SACRAMENTO STATE

The Hornets have a 14-5 record and return five starters and 10 letterwinners from last season's 21-12 team that earned an NCAA tournament bid after finishing first in the Big Sky with a 12-4 record. The Hornets are 8-1 in conference play this year. Sacramento State is on a roll, having won seven straight matches and 21 consecutive games. The Hornets have split the season series with common BYU opponent Weber State, including a three-game sweep at home over the Wildcats. Senior middle blocker Tasman Dwyer averages 3.33 kills and a ..335 attack percentage to lead the Hornets.

SERIES NOTES

BYU has a 2-0 series record against Sacramento State. This will be the first match played in Sacramento in the series. BYU defeated the Hornets 3-1 in 1993 and 3-0 in 1991 in Provo.

Air Force

1-15 overall

0-9 Mountain West

QUICK LOOK AT AIR FORCE

The Falcons return four starters and seven lettwinners from last year's 6-21 team that placed eighth in the Mountain West with an 0-14 mark. The Falcons are still looking to snap their 26-match conference losing streak. The Falcons dropped matches at UNLV and San Diego State last week. Delavane Diaz hit a season-high .609 at San Diego State, putting away 15 kills in 23 attempts with just one error. As a team, the Falcons hit a season-high .412 vs. the Aztecs, marking the first time all year Air Force has topped a .400 hitting percentage.

SERIES NOTES

BYU is 7-0 vs. Air Force, with three wins at the Academy. BYU won the first meeting this year in Provo in a three-game sweep.

New Mexico

3-15 overall

1-8 Mountain West

QUICK LOOK AT NEW MEXICO

The Lobos have a new coach this year in Tom Peterson, a former BYU assistant who coached Utah State to the NCAA tournament and a national ranking last year. His Aggie team defeated BYU last season in Logan, Utah, and won its first round NCAA match in Provo before losing to BYU in the NCAA second round. The Lobos have two starters and five letterwinners returning from last season's 10-17 team that tied for fifth in the Mountain West Conference with a 5-9 conference record.

The Lobos dropped a pair of MWC matches last week. UNM lost a four-game match at San Diego State despite outhitting the Aztecs .357 to .311. Lobo sophomore Anna Reines totaled a season-high 22 kills and a season-high .513 hitting percentage vs. SDSU. In her last three matches, Reines is hitting .440 and averaging 4.0 kills per game.

SERIES NOTES

The Cougars have a 49-7 all-time record against the Lobos, including a 20-4 mark in Albuquerque. BYU won the first meeting in Provo in three games and also swept the Lobos the year in Albuquerque.

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.

BLOODY NOSE HALTS MOMENTUM

The Cougars fell to 12-4 on the year and 6-2 in the Mountain West Conference with a 25-30, 30-25, 32-30, 26-30, 12-15 loss to then-No. 18 Utah last Friday in Salt Lake City. Leading 2-1 and up 20-14 in game four, BYU seemed well on its way to the win until All-American Nina Puikkonen had to go out with a bloody nose. Puikkonen had just rotated to the front row where she could add to what was approaching a career-best night. The Utes won four of five points with Puikkonen out and out scored BYU 16-6 to win the fourth game and force a fifth, which they won 15-12. The Cougars had a three-match winning streak over Utah come to an end Friday. The loss at Crimson Court marks the first time in 20 years that BYU has suffered back-to-back defeats on Utah's home court. The Utes' only other multiple-win streak over BYU in Salt Lake City was a three-match streak with Ute victories in 1979, 1980 and 1981.

RARE LOSSES

BYU suffered its first back-to-back defeats since losing to Utah State and nationally ranked Arizona last September. Ironically, BYU lost to Utah State Tuesday before dropping Friday's contest to No. 18 Utah. Utah State earned a top-25 ranking last year after its upset of BYU and returned again to the rankings Monday at No. 25 after defeating BYU.

STREAK ENDS

BYU had its 20 match home winning streak come to an end last Tuesday with 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 was nationally ranked Arizona on Sept. 15, 2000.

CONFERENCE LOSSES

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.

NINA PUIKKONEN LAST WEEK

• Senior middle blocker Nina Puikkonen averaged 4.38 kills, 2.12 digs and 1.50 blocks while hitting .358 in two matches last week. She led BYU in hitting percentage, kills and blocks and was second in digs.

• Puikkonen recorded season highs with 24 kills, 14 digs and a .500 attack percentage in a tough five-game loss at No. 18 Utah Friday. Her 24 kills was one kill shy of her best-ever effort of 25. She also had eight blocks, nearly totaling a triple-double. She surpassed 1,500 career kills (1,508 kills) during the match. She is fifth all-time at BYU in kills. She had 11 kills, four blocks and three digs in a three-game loss to Utah State on Tuesday.

• Puikkonen has had 10 or more kills in all 16 matches this year. She was forced out of the Utah match during game four Friday because of a bloody nose, coming out while on the front row for the first time this year. BYU was in command of the match with a 20-14 lead but Utah took advantage and was able to comeback to win the final two games for the victory.

• With two block solos last week, Puikkonen moved into a fourth-place tie with Amy Steele Gant on BYU's career list. She needs nine more solos to move into third place past Jill Plumb. Puikkonen is second all-time in block assists and total blocks. She is the BYU leader in blocks per game.

JACKIE BUNDY RETURNS HOME

Jackie Bundy returns to her hometown Thursday when the Cougars play at Sacramento State. The 6-1 senior middle blcoker attended Hiram Johnson High School in Sacramento. Last week she contributed 13 vs. Utah and nine against Utah State. Bundy has reached double figures in kills nine times this year.

SUNNY MAHE ...

Sunny Mahe helped BYU with 16 kills at Utah and had a team-high 12 kills against Utah State last week. Mahe has reached double-digit kills in 14 of 16 matches this year.

LAUREN RICHARDS ...

Freshman outside hitter Lauren Richards had a career-high 12 kills with a personal-best .409 attack percentage vs. Utah State. She had six kills at Utah.

KARINA PUIKKONEN ...

Karina Puikkonen had her third double-double of the year at Utah with 11 digs and a season-high 62 assists.

CARRIE BOWERS ...

Sophomore middle blocker Carrie Bowers saw her first action of the year while Puikkonen was out with a bloody nose.

NATALIE WHITTAKER ...

Natalie Whittaker had a team-best 25 digs (3.12 dpg) last week. She had 15 digs vs. Utah and 10 vs. Utah State. She has had 10 matches with 10 or more digs this year, including the last four straight.

1,100 AND COUNTING

BYU coach Elaine Michaelis has coached 1,104th recorded (since 1969) matches. She has won nearly 80 percent of those matches, with 879 wins. She is second in all-time Division I victories.

THREE AND OUT

BYU has achieved seven of its last eight wins in three-game sweeps. BYU is 9-2 overall in three-game matches this year. With its four-game win over San Diego State, BYU is 2-0 when going four games. The Cougars are 1-2 in five-game contests this year, losing its last match in five games to Utah.

POINTS

On the year, Nina Puikkonen leads the Cougars with 288.5 points (5.15 ppg), followed by Sunny Mahe with 257.0 (4.59 ppg) and Jackie Bundy with 228.5 (4.08 ppg).

TRIPLE-DOUBLE

Senior middle blocker Jackie Bundy recorded 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.

ALL-TOURNAMENT 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. Mahe and Nina Puikkonen also were named to the Point Huskies Invitational All-Tournament Team.

ELAINE MICHAELIS COACHING 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 879-220-5 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 352-35. 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.

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