The roar of the stands. The vibration of the booming speakers overhead. The stream of lights illuminating the court. All she is concerned with is watching the ball, analyzing the situation and getting the next dig, block or spike.
For someone who has been in the spotlight nonstop this season, senior BYU women’s volleyball outside hitter Veronica “Roni” Jones-Perry is focused on her game rather than the national attention.
“It’s one of those things where I think that some people would get caught up in it and I don’t want it to be a distraction for me,” Jones-Perry said. “And also, it’s not a goal for me to be nationally recognized or even within the (West Coast) Conference. I just want to see how good I can get, and then whatever comes with that, comes with it.”
Jones-Perry was named AVCA Division I Women’s Player of the Week on Sept. 4, making her the seventh player in BYU women’s volleyball history to be recognized and the first since Alexa Gray received the honor in 2015.
Jones-Perry was also named WCC Player of the Week on Sept. 3 after her role in BYU’s claim of the Nike Invitational title, which included a win against then No. 1 Stanford.
“I think she’s earned it,” said assistant coach Jonny Neeley about Jones-Perry’s recent national attention. “I think if you take it in stride, like how she’s done, it’s just a part of the process. It’s something that comes when you’re as good as she’s been. From my eyes, I’ll just say I’m glad she’s on our team because she’s tough to defend.”
Jones-Perry’s 20 kills, 10 digs, five blocks and two aces largely contributed to the Cougars’ 5-set victory over the Stanford Cardinals. The Cougars have continued their winning momentum, sitting at No. 1 with a current 20-0 record.
“After that game, we talked about what things we did well and what things helped us to perform the way that we did during that game, and so we tried to learn from that and then apply it going forward,” Jones-Perry said. “And then, we really focus on whatever we have coming up next. I think that helped us in the first place with that Stanford game, to just stay present and focus on the next point.”
Jones-Perry was a gymnast growing up until age 13. One of her mother’s coworkers suggested she try volleyball, so she did. She said her first real team was her freshmen squad at Copper Hills High School in West Jordan, Utah. She, however, did not love playing volleyball at first.
“I was a pretty shy kid, and so when I wasn’t good at first, it was still kind of scary,” Jones-Perry said. “I didn’t love it right off the bat, but the more I played, the more I fell in love with the team aspect of it. After that, I was in the gym more and more.”
Jones-Perry currently focuses on doing what she can do mentally and physically to help herself improve, therefore helping her team. She works with Craig Manning, BYU athletics’ mental strength coach, to improve her mental game, which she said has helped her in school, volleyball and her relationships.
Jones-Perry said she has figured out what works best for her body. She tries to stay disciplined in her nutrition and balanced in working out, resting and learning as much as she can about the game.
“I’ve always been really self-motivated, and so I don’t really want or need accolades from other people,” Jones-Perry said. “It’s more of, ‘I want to go see how good I can get for myself.’ And then, when I’m out on the court, it’s playing for my teammates and doing whatever I can to help them because, in the end, I know that’s going to be helping me and help all of us achieve what we want to achieve.”
Head coach Heather Olmstead said Jones-Perry’s efforts help her as a leader to the team.
“Roni’s just a grinder and a worker,” Olmstead said. “She leads by example. She gets out, she puts in the work, players see her out there early, staying late and that’s really where she provides the best leadership for us.”
Jones-Perry plans to graduate this coming April and then play overseas. She encourages anyone looking to play at the next level or improve their game to know their “why.”
“Make sure you’re doing things for the reasons that you want to do them and not because it’s what other people tell you you should be doing or what you should want,” Jones-Perry said. “Just take that time to sit down and really think through what you want and then make your plan accordingly.”