Provo • BYU and Oregon took turns making diving digs and sending desperate free balls over the net to keep the rally alive.
Then Roni Jones-Perry ended it.
She rose above the net and drilled a hit past the Oregon blockers to put BYU just one point away from its sixth berth to the Sweet 16 in as many years. Then she made the final kill too.
“She knows how she can score” BYU coach Heather Olmstead said. “And she’s developed range, and so if they’re going to try to take something away she’ll just hit another shot.”
The Cougars swept the Ducks 3-0 in the second round of the NCAA volleyball tournament at the Smith Field House on Saturday. The Cougars have not yet lost a set in the tournament; they claimed a straight-set victory over American University in the first round as well. BYU will face No. 4 seed Kentucky, which came from behind to beat Western Kentucky 3-2 Saturday, at Kentucky in the quarterfinals.
Jones-Perry had the set-winning kill in every set of the match, which BYU won 25-20, 25-21 and 25-19.
“She really challenges you, and you’re going to have to respond,” Ducks coach Matt Ulmer said. “You’re going to have to make plays in order to slow her down, and we didn’t. We weren’t able to do it, and so that was definitely very frustrating because it’s one of those things like you know it’s coming, and you still don’t stop her. I thought she was really extra special tonight.”
Of Jones-Perry’s 27 kills on the night, the final two inspired the loudest cheers. Kill No. 26, which ended the longest rally of the final set, put the Cougars up 24-18.
The BYU fans were already on their feet — inspired in large part by the heroics of libero Mary Lake — and when Jones-Perry spiked the last hit of the rally, they erupted in cheers.
Those cheers only died down momentarily, as Oregon claimed one more point, before the crowd rose again to congratulate BYU for punching its ticket to the third round.
“I just love being in the moment and playing volleyball with my teammates,” Jones-Perry said, “and so I’m stoked I have another couple practices and at least one more game to go do that. So I’m excited, and I know everybody else is.”
Even with its success so far in the tournament, BYU has continued to make adjustments from match to match. Unlike the Friday night, when BYU struggled to close out sets, the Cougars were strong down the stretch in their second-round match. It was something they talked about after Friday’s victory, Olmstead said.
“The girls do a good job getting to the center and talking about what their job is looking forward to the next play,” she said. “And I thought that was really evident tonight that they just kept looking forward.”
While BYU will be playing across the country for the third round, it will take on Kentucky in a familiar gym. In 2015 the Cougars lost to Nebraska in the Sweet 16 at Kentucky.
• BYU earns a berth to the Sweet 16 for the sixth straight season.
• Outside hitter Rini Jones-Perry leads the Cougars with 27 kills.
• First-year Oregon coach Matt Ulmer’s NCAA tournament run ends in the second round.