By CHRISTINE JACKSON
No. 15 Colorado State upset BYU’s women’s eighth-ranked volleyball team Friday, serving the Cougars their first conference loss of the season. The Rams won the match in three games 15-8, 15-13 and 15-6. The Cougars went on to beat Wyoming on Saturday, and are now 15-3 and 6-1 in the Mountain West Conference.
Colorado State hit for .317 to overpower BYU’s percentage of .154, a drastic drop from the average percentage of .293. The two teams are tied for first in the MWC.
The Cougars were led by Nina Puikkonen who had 12 kills. Jackie Bundy had 11 kills and seven blocks and the highest hitting percentage with .292. Caroline Bower led the defense with 11 digs.
For the Rams, Angela Knopf had 17 kills, followed by Catie Vagneur and Courtney Cox with 15 each and Summer Jennings who had 14.
BYU managed to outblock the Rams 12-8, though head coach Elaine Michaelis was not happy with the defense.
“They hit very well. Even though we got 12 blocks, we didn’t play very good defense and the offense struggled,” she said. “I just don’t think we generally played very well. We didn’t have a good night, and every once in a while you run into one of those.”
Defensive specialist Natalie Whitaker said the team struggled equally with defense and offense. Melissa Layton also attributed the loss to an overall team struggle.
“They’re a very good team, but the main thing is we just didn’t play well,” she said.
Saturday was a much better day for the Cougars. They beat the Cowgirls in three games 15-8, 15-7 and 15-11. The team hit for .345 and outblocked Wyoming 10-2. Michaelis saw a tremendous difference in the team’s play.
“It was a different group,” she said. “We were the old Cougars today.”
Puikkonen had 15 kills and a hitting percentage of .538. Both Melissa Layton and Sunny Tonga had 10 kills.
Tonga’s 10 kills came in 11 attempts for a hitting percentage of .909, an all-time BYU record.
Another record was broken, with Anna-Lena Smith gaining 42 more assists to surpass the all-time record at BYU in the first game of the match. The record of 5,321 assists was formerly held by U.S. National team member Charlene Johnson Tagaloa. Smith already held the records for most assists per game, 12.96, and most assists in a match, 89.
The Cougars missed Mari Carpenter, the conference hitting leader, who sat out because of a back problem.
Defensively, Puikkonen had nine digs and Natalie Whitaker, Caroline Bower and Jackie Bundy each added seven. Michaelis said the team played a lot better, but she would still like to see more digs. The Cowgirls, who are now 8-13, were led by Melody Friehauf who had 13 kills.
The Cougars will now head to Arizona for more exciting play, facing Arizona State University and Arizona. In another upset, Arizona State defeated the nationally-ranked Wildcats last week.
BYU is 19-4 against Arizona State and have a 4-1 record in Tempe. ASU last beat BYU in 1988 in Provo. Arizona State has a record of 10-5 overall and are 6-3 in the Pac-10.
Against Arizona, the team is 22-10 and lost the last meeting in the 1994 NCAA Tournament. In Tucson, BYU is 2-3. The Wildcats have a record of 12-5 overall and are also 6-3 in the Pac-10.
The team is in the middle of a tough schedule with four games in five nights and two of those games against nationally-ranked teams. Whitaker and teammates rested in the van from Wyoming back to Colorado.
“As long as we get excited for the game against Arizona, we’ll do well,” she said.