Cougars Seek Regular Season Championship this Weekend
PROVO -- BYU looks to avenge its only conference loss of the season and win the Mountain West Conference regular season title when it hosts Wyoming and Colorado State Friday and Saturday in the Smith Fieldhouse. The 10th-ranked Cougars play Wyoming Friday at 7 p.m. before facing No. 11-ranked Colorado State Saturday at 5 p.m. in a match featuring the league's top two teams. The Rams and Cougars have only one loss apiece with Colorado State having won the previous meeting this year in Fort Collins. Friday's match with Wyoming will be televised live on KBYU Channel 11.
Hot Action, Hot Chocolate for Saturday Affair
Free hot chocolate and pizza will be distributed to the first 1,000 people in the door at Saturday's match with Colorado State. The match starts at 5 p.m., shortly after the end of the BYU vs. Utah football game.
A Quick Look at the Cougars
BYU enters this week with an eight-match win streak. The Cougars have won their last 17 consecutive games and in Mountain West Conference play have won 33 of their 36 games on the way to a 11-1 record and first-place tie. Last week BYU defeated Utah in three games. Nina Puikkonen led the way with 17 kills and a .533 hitting percentage.
Coach Michaelis on CSU
"This is a big weekend because it is championship week. The last time we played Colorado State their two middles were unstoppable. We didn't control them with the serve or with what we were trying to do defensively. The challenge is going to be controlling the middle. We have a strong middle and we're not the same team as we were when we played in Fort Collins. We'll be at home this time and we are tough to beat at home."
Series with Wyoming
The Cougars are 42-3 against Wyoming, including a 3-0 win in Laramie this year and two 3-0 wins last year, once in Provo and at the WAC Tournament in Las Vegas. The Cougars have a 17-match win streak against Wyoming dating back to 1989 (3-1 Wyoming win in Laramie). Overall, BYU is 21-1 in Provo against the Cowgirls with Wyoming's lone win coming Sept. 22, 1984 in the BYU Invitational.
Last Match vs. the Cowgirls
LARAMIE -- All-American setter Anna-Lena Smith set BYU's career assist record while leading the Cougars to a 15-8, 15-7, 15-11 win over Wyoming in Laramie. With her ninth assist in the first game, Smith surpassed current U.S. National Team setter Charlene Johnson Tagaloa atop BYU's all-time list with her 5,322nd career assist. BYU got off to a strong start, hitting .447 in the first game and then held the Cowgirls to only four kills in 29 attempts in game two. The Cougars hit .306 in game three for a match attack percentage of .345. Middle blocker Nina Puikkonen led BYU with 15 kills, nine digs and eight blocks -- all match highs. Last year's NCAA blocking leader hit .538 for the match. Moving to middle blocker where she earned all-conference honors last year, Layton knocked down 10 kills while hitting .500 for the match. Bundy also played well with nine kills and seven digs while Barrus added 3 kills in five attempts during the third game. With senior outside hitter Mari Carpenter sitting out the match to mend a sore hip, freshman Sunny Tonga took advantage and recorded 10 kills in 11 attempts with no errors to hit .909 -- the best individual match percentage in BYU history. Senior outside hitter Caroline Bower had four kills, seven digs and five blocks to help the Cougars out block Wyoming 10-2. Wyoming was led by Melody Friehauf, who had 13 kills while hitting .345. Jamie Burke added nine kills.
Series with Colorado State
BYU has a 39-8-1 record against Colorado State but the Rams won the last two meetings, a 3-0 CSU win earlier this year in Fort Collins and a 3-1 Ram win in Fort Collins in 1997. The Cougars had won 18 in a row dating back to CSU's previous win in 1987. BYU is 20-2 against the Rams in Provo and have not lost to CSU in Provo since a 3-1 defeat Oct. 5, 1984.
Last Match vs. the Rams
FORT COLLINS -- Using a crowd of 4,112 to their advantage, 15th-ranked Colorado State defeated No. 8 BYU 15-8, 15-13, 15-6 to hand the Cougars their first conference loss of the season. The Rams hit an outstanding .317 as a team and held the Cougars to a .154 hitting percentage. The win places Colorado State into a first-place tie with the Cougars atop the Mountain West Conference. The Cougars, who were without outside hitter Mari Carpenter for two of the three games due to a back injury, were led offensively by Puikkonen, who finished the night with a team-high 12 kills. Sophomore Jackie Bundy had 11 kills and seven blocks while finishing with a team-high .292 hitting percentage. Sophomore Angela Knopf paced Colorado State with 17 kills and ten digs. Senior Catie Vagneur and sophomore Courtney Cox each finished with 15 kills.
Smith is Record Setter
All-American setter Anna-Lena Smith had match highs of 10 digs and 40 assists last week against Utah. The last time she played agasint Wyoming earlier thsi year in Laramie she set BYU's all-time assist record surpassing the old record held by current U.S. National Team setter Charlene Johnson Tagaloa (5, 321).
Puikkonen Tops MWC in Three Categories
Puikkonen led BYU to its win over Utah last Friday with a match-high 17 kills on 30 attempts. She made only one hitting error to hit .533 for the night. She also added seven digs and tied teammate Jackie Bundy with a match-high five blocks. Puikkonen proved to much for the Utes as she was able to hit over their block even with Utah's players being in perfect position. On the year, Puikkonen leads BYU and the conference in kills per game (4.33), blocks per game (1.80) and hitting percentage (.374). She is also averaging 2.05 digs. She has put down double-digit kills in 24 of BYU's 25 matches, 19 of which have only been three games. The sophomore middle blocker Nina Puikkonen is a two-time Mountain West Conference Volleyball Player of the Week this season.
Tonga's Solid Play Demands Time on the Court
True freshman Sunny Tonga has seen more and more time as the season has progressed with her solid and at times record-setting play. She is hitting .344 (fourth best in the conference) and averaging 2.83 kills per game. The string of solid outings began the last time BYU played Wyoming. Playing for an injured Mari Carpenter, Tonga set a MWC and BYU single-match attack percentage record when she put down 10 kills in 11 attempts without a single error for a .909 hitting percentage. The next match agasint Arizona State she had 13 kills in 14 attempts with one error to record BYU's third-best single-match effort of .857. She had a career-high 15 kills at San Diego State.
Carpenter Returns to Action
Mari Carpenter returned to action for BYU against Utah after sitting out the last four matches. The 6-4 senior contributed 10 kills, three digs and one block while hitting .421 (10-2-19). She is third in hitting and fifth in kills in the conference.
BYU is Digging Bowers Leadership
Senior Caroline Bower has five double-doubles this year. She is second in the MWC in digs and matched a career-best 27 digs -- the best effort by a MWC player thus far -- against No. 19 Arizona Wildcats earlier this season.
Now in 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 834-207-5 record (since records were kept in 1969) and has the most wins ever by a female coach. She entered 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 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.
BYU played one of its better matches of the year Friday while defeating Utah in three games. The Cougars hit .374 as a team while hitting .333 or better in each of the three games. The Cougars made 11 hitting errors in 107 attempts while putting down 51 kills. With the win, the Cougars remain in position with only one loss to win the Mountain West Conference regular season title this week. The Cougars host Wyoming Friday and No. 11 Colorado State Saturday. The Cougars' lone loss was to the Rams in Fort Collins. The Cougars have won their last eight matches and their last 17 straight games. BYU has yet to go beyond three games in Mountain West Conference match this year while earning an 11-1 record. The Cougars have won 33 of the 36 games with all three lost games coming in an 0-3 defeat to the Rams in Fort Collins.
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