LOS -- Improving to 3-1 on the year, BYU's No. 9 ranked women's volleyball team defeated Houston Friday, 3-0, in the first match of the Loyola Marymount Invitational.
The Cougars continued to get outstanding play from sophomore Nina Puikkonen and senior Mari Carpenter in the 16-14, 15-11, 15-13 victory over the Cougars of Houston. Puikkonen and Carpenter each contributed a team-leading 13 kills while hitting .333 and .385, respectively. Puikkonen also performed well on defense, adding 12 digs and six blocks.
"I was encouraged by our passing and thought we played much better defense than we did last week," BYU coach Elaine Michaelis said. "We were also able to play some of our younger players and played much better than final scores would indicate."
Freshman Sunny Tonga played rightside hitter for the first time this year, tallying four kills and four digs. Senior Caroline Bower led the Cougar defensive effort with a match-high 14 digs while adding eight kills. All American setter Anna-Lena Smith led the team with a .556 hitting percentage on six kills and had a match-high 43 assists while directing BYU's attack.
The Cougars face tournament host Loyola Marymount Saturday at 1 p.m. before returning to Provo to prepare for their home openers next week against Utah State and No. 11 Pepperdine.
PROVO -- After opening the season with a 2-1 record and second-place finish at the Georgia Invitational in Athens, Ga., the Cougars travel cross country to Los Angeles to participate in the Loyola Marymount Volleyball Classic. BYU, ranked No. 9 by Volleyball magazine and No. 12 in the AVCA/USA Today preseason poll, plays Houston Friday at 5 p.m. (Pacific) before taking on tournament host Loyola Marymount Saturday at Noon (Pacific).
A Look at the Cougars
BYU is coming off victories over Georgia and Toledo after opening the year with a closely contested three-game loss to Michigan. For each of the past three seasons, BYU has come within one victory of making its second trip to the NCAA Final Four, something it did in 1993. BYU has eight letterwinners returning from last year's 31-4 team, including All-American setter Anna-Lena Smith and all-conference performers Nina Puikkonen (middle blocker), Melissa Layton (rightside hitter) and Mari Carpenter (outside hitter).
Quote from Coach Elaine Michaelis
Houston and Loyola Marymount are good teams with some some dominating offensive players. We will be better prepared this week than last week but these two matches are going to be very challenging. We need to improve our defense.
This will be BYU's 10th meeting with Houston. The Cougars hold a 5-4 edge in the series and won the last meeting in 1995. BYU's match with Loyola Marymount will be the first ever between the two schools.
The Cougars are 3-1 on the year after winning the Houston Invitational last week. Their lone loss was to No. 2 Stanford. Six letterwinners and two starters return from last year's team that finished 21-13, including 11 5 in Conference USA. Senior outside hitter Kristin Guidish (2.03 kpg, 3.91
dpg) and junior middle blocker Michelle Frazier (2.88 kpg, 2.45 dpg, 1.12
bpg) are the top returners.
Series Breakdown vs. Houston
(Record: 5-4, H: 1-1, A: 0-1, N: 3-1 Natls: 2-2)
11/29/95 NCAA Tournament H W 3-0
11/24/90 Long Beach Invitational N W 3-2
09/24/82 BYU Invitational H W 2-0
09/05/80 Texas Invitational A L 1-3
12/06/79 AIAW Tournament N W 2-0
09/28/79 BYU Invitational H L 1-3
12/10/76 AIAW Tournament N L 0-2
12/11/75 AIAW Tournament L
12/15/73 AIAW Tournament N W 2-1
Scouting Loyola Marymount
Preseason No. 25, the Lions enter their own tournament with a 3-1 record. They opened the year at home with a 3-0 win over the Mountain West's San Diego State before going 2-1 at the University Park Holiday Inn Classic in For Collins, Colo. LMU defeated Southeast Missouri State (3-0) and George Washington (3-0) before suffering a three game defeat to nationally ranked Colorado State of the Mountain West Conference. The Lions are led by outside hitter Sarah McFarland, a 6-foot-6 junior who is averaging a whopping 8.25 kills per game.
1999: 2-1 (0-0 home; 1-0 away; 1-1 neutral)
All-time : 815-205-5 (since records kept in 1969)
Coach Michaelis: same
Opening Loss has Positive End of Season Results
If BYU follows recent tradition, the Cougars' opening day loss to Michigan shouldn't give BYU faithful any thing to worry about. The loss marked the third time in the last four years and fourth time in the 1990s that the Cougars have lost the season opener (each time on the road). In each instance, BYU went on to reach the NCAA Regional Finals or better. In 1997, BYU lost to Penn State, 1-3, before going on to a 29-6 record and NCAA Regional Final appearance. In 1996, the Cougars lost to Nebraska, 2-3, and finished 27-7 after making it to the Regional Finals. The other year BYU lost its opening match in the 90s was a defeat at Hawaii in 1993 -- the same year the Cougars earned a Final Four berth.
Smith Setting the BYU Table
BYU is set at the setter position with second-team AVCA All-American Anna-Lena Smith returning for her senior season. After making 164 assists in her first three matches, the 5-foot-10 Smith needs 608 more assists in 1999 to surpass current U.S. National Team setter Charlene Johnson Tagaloa atop BYU's all-time assists list. Last year Smith averaged just over 13 assists per game and totalled more than 1,500 on the year while setting up the quick Cougar offense. Her 89 assists against Hawaii in the WAC Championship match set a BYU single-match record. She also had her best season yet with 129 kills in 1998.
Puikkonen a Dominating Presence in the Middle
No player in the nation during the past five years has averaged more blocks per game than Nina Puikkonen did last year in her first college season. Puikkonen, a Volleyball magazine Freshman All-American, made 2.17 blocks per game while hitting .341 hitting and knocking down 3.18 kills per game last year. The 6-foot-3 All-District VII performer set career highs of 25 kills, 19 digs and 14 blocks last year. This year she was named to the Georgia Invitational All-Tournament Team after hitting .371 and averaging 4.17 kills, 2.08 digs and 1.92 blocks per game. She nearly recorded back-to-back triple doubles in BYU's two wins with 19 kills, 12 digs and 9 blocks (while hitting .533) against Georgia, and 16 kills, 8 digs and 10 blocks (while hitting .429) against Toledo.
Carpenter Putting Down the Hammer
Senior outside hitter Mari Carpenter joined teammate Nina Puikkonen on the All-Tournament Team at last week's Georgia Invitational after hitting.429 and averaging 3.20 kills per game. The 6-foot-4 Carpenter averaged 3.16 kills per game and hit .345 last season
Sunny Days ahead for BYU
Freshman recruit Sunny Tonga got her first significant action of the year in a start against Toledo and showed she should be a valuable contributor this year and in the future. She had 10 kills and hit .292 in the four-game win.
Soft-Spoken Michaelis Wields Winning Stick
In the world of collegiate women's volleyball, few if any coaches commandmore respect than Cougar head coach Elaine Michaelis. Now beginning her 38th year at the helm of the BYU program, Elaine Michaelis also enters her fifth year as Director of Women's Athletics. A proven winner, Michaelis is second all-time in Division I victories with an 815-205-5 record (since records were first kept at BYU beginning in 1969) and has the most wins ever by a female coach. She enters her first season in the new Mountain West Conference with a 321-30 conference record in four previous leagues and the distinction of winning the inaugural championship of each league. Last year, Michaelis coached in her 1000th recorded match and reached the milestone of 800 victories while coaching the Cougars to their third straight NCAA Regional Final. Michaelis, whose 31-4 record last year marked the eighth time she has recorded more than 30 victories in a season, has had 25 straight 20-win seasons.
The 1999 Schedule
With 17 road matches on its schedule, including a date with No. 7 ranked Stanford in late September, BYU has a challenging 1999 schedule. After opening the non-conference schedule going 2-1 at the Georgia Invitational in Athens, Ga., the Cougars travel cross country to play Loyola Marymount and Houston in Los Angeles. BYU faces Utah State and No. 11 Pepperdine Sept. 17 and 18 in its first home matches of the season. The Cougars open Mountain West Conference play at Air Force Oct. 1 and end the regular season Nov. 19 and 20 at home against Wyoming and No. 19 Colorado State. During the conference season, BYU will sneak in away dates with Weber State, No. 15 Arizona and Arizona State and a home match-up Notre Dame, ranked 20th by Volleyball magazine.
New Mountain West Conference
The Mountain West Conference enters its inaugural season in 1999. The Mountain West schools - Air Force Academy, Brigham Young University, Colorado State University, University of New Mexico, San Diego State University, UNLV, University of Utah and Wyoming - have garnered much success over the years in women's volleyball. Five of the institutions (BYU, CSU, New Mexico, San Diego State and Wyoming) have competed in the NCAA Tournament at least twice this decade, including BYU advancing to the NCAA Regional Finals each of the last three years and the NCAA Final Four in 1993.
MWC Preseason Poll
The Cougars, who have won the inaugural conference championship in each of their three previous leagues, were voted the coaches' preseason favorite to win the first Mountain West Conference title. BYU will host the inaugural MWC tournament Nov. 24-27 at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo.
1. BYU (No. 9 Volleyball; No. 12 AVCA rankings)
2. Colorado State (No. 19 AVCA ranking)
3. Utah (Received 24 votes in AVCA preseason poll)
4. UNLV (Received 1 vote in AVCA preseason poll)
6. New Mexico
7. San Diego State
8. Air Force
A Glimpse Back at the 1998 Season
As a team, BYU was second in the nation in blocking (3.77 bpg), sixth in hitting (.291) and 19th in assists (15.20 apg). The Cougars were also 19th
in home attendance with 16 regular season matches averaging 1,135 Cougar faithful at the Smith Fieldhouse. Nina Puikkonen was the nation's top blocker (2.17 bpg). Puikkonen (Volleyball magazine Freshman), Korie Rogers and Anna-Lena Smith (both AVCA Second Team) earned All America, District VII, and first-team All-WAC honors. The 31-4 record was the team's best since 1987. The Cougars four losses were to eventual national champion Long Beach State (1-3), NCAA runner-up Penn State (0-3) and No. 5 Hawaii, who edged the Cougars in two of their three matches, both times in five-game marathon contests.
Cougars in Conference Stats
Blocks: first - 3.42
Aces: first - 2.50
Hitting Percentage: second - .303
Kills: fourth - 16.67
Assists: fifth - 14.58
Digs: fifth - 12.08
BYU Individual Leaders
Blocks: Nina Puikkonen, first - 1.92
Aces: Melissa Layton, first - 0.75
Hitting Percentage: Mari Carpenter, second - .429
Assists: Anna-Lena Smith, fourth - 13.67
Kills: Nina Puikkonen, fifth - 4.17
At this point one year ago ...
Match #4 -- September 5
Curry Hicks Cage * Amherst, Mass. (257)
BYU 15 15 13 15
UMass 7 9 15 3
AMHERST, Mass. -- BYU defeated host UMass 15 7, 15-9, 13-15, 15-3 to win the UMass/Phoenix Invitational and start the 1998 season with a perfect 4-0 record. Mari Carpenter was named to the all tournament team after leading the Cougars with 19 kills. All-American Korie Rogers, who had 11 kills and 11 digs against UMass, was named the tournament MVP. Setter Anna-Lena Smith joined Carpenter and Rogers on the all tournament team, finishing with 52 assists in the win over UMass.
Match #5 -- September 10
Smith Fieldhouse * Provo, Utah (772)
Wash. State 12 5 0
BYU 15 15 15
PROVO -- Lighting up the court with 10 kills and four digs, Helen Hjorth led the sixth-ranked Cougars to a 15-12, 15-5, 15-0 win over No. 24 Washington State. Caroline Steuer Bower added nine digs. After winning the first two games, BYU's Andrea Petrilli served eight unanswered points to open game three, which lasted only thirteen minutes as WSU went scoreless.