Volleyball star Roni Jones-Perry wanted to be a Ute, but she’s now flourishing at No. 8 BYU

Cougars host No. 18 San Diego on Friday in showdown of WCC leaders

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young's Veronica Jones-Perry (12) hits past Utah's Dani Barton (1) and Utah's Tawnee Luafalemana (20) during the volleyball match at the Jon M. Huntsman Center Thursday, September 14, 2017.

Provo • Veronica “Roni” Jones’ parents were skeptical at first, maybe even a bit unhappy.

They were lifelong Salt Lake-area residents, die-hard University of Utah fans and not members of the faith that owns and operates BYU.

But their daughter, an all-state volleyball player at West Jordan’s Copper Hills High who also is not LDS, wouldn’t stop talking about taking a recruiting visit to check out the Cougars’ nationally prominent women’s volleyball program.

“I really wanted to go to Utah, but they weren’t interested,” said the recent U.S. Collegiate Women’s National Team member who now is known as Roni Jones-Perry because she married her high school sweetheart, Todd Perry, after her freshman season at BYU. “So I started to listen to BYU.”

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young's Veronica Jones-Perry (12) Brigham Young's Cosy Burnett (2) Brigham Young's Alohi Robins-Hardy (3) and Brigham Young's Mary Lake (18) celebrate after winning a set during the volleyball match at the Jon M. Huntsman Center Thursday, September 14, 2017.

The prep phenom’s mother tagged along on her recruiting trip to BYU, and sure enough the Cougars offered Roni a scholarship just before she left the Smith Fieldhouse where the Cougars play. She didn’t immediately accept, thinking her parents wouldn’t approve and wondering how she was going to talk them into it.

“We were walking out to the car, and my mom was like, ‘Why don’t you just commit?’” Jones-Perry said recently. “She was like, ’Go back in there and tell them you are coming here.’ And I was like, ‘OK, I will.’ I was blown away by her change of heart.”

Three years later, she’s one of the best college volleyball players in the country and a big reason why the Cougars are ranked No. 8 in the AVCA poll. They are riding a 13-match winning streak heading into Friday’s WCC showdown with No. 18 San Diego at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo (7 p.m., BYUtv).

Not only did BYU coaches Shawn and Heather Olmstead want Jones-Perry in the worst way back in 2014, they already were envisioning the athletic, 6-foot former gymnast becoming a star in Provo.

“Absolutely,” said Heather Olmstead, named the coach in 2015 when Shawn Olmstead, her brother, became the men’s coach. “We brought her in here knowing she had a good arm and a fast arm and that if we could train her to be mindful with her swings and take rips when she had a good set and manage when she didn’t, she would be fantastic.”

VERONICA “RONI” JONES-PERRY <br>• Junior outside hitter was named the ESPNW National Player of the Week after leading BYU to wins over Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount. <br>• Had a school-record 34 kills in No. 8-ranked Cougars‘ five-set win over LMU last Saturday. <br>• Four-year starter at West Jordan’s Copper Hills High, earned all-state honors senior year

Mom and dad even are starting to come around, but just a little bit.

“Oh, no, not all the way yet,” Jones-Perry said with a laugh. “They have gotten better. It used to be that they would only wear something with a Y on it if it said BYU volleyball. Now they will wear any BYU shirt, but only on a game day and only if they are doing something with me or the team.”

Jones-Perry made the All-WCC Freshman Team in 2015 after registering 171 kills and was a First-Team honoree in 2016 after registering 227 kills. She already has 381 kills this season, and recently set a school record for kills in the rally scoring era with 34 against Loyola Marymount in a five-set win.

“Roni is such a great representative of BYU, being a non-member, because she is representing the church and the school, not as a member, but as an outstanding citizen wanting to say, ‘Yeah, I will sign the Honor Code and I will abide by it because I want to be great and I want to be great at academics, and I want to be great on the court and I want to be great in life,’” Heather Olmstead said.