Whatever amount of digs she got, it wasn't just that. It was her energy. It's contagious to the team. It's her effort. —BYU coach Heather Olmstead on Mary Lake
PROVO — Veronica Jones-Perry has been outstanding throughout the 2017 season, but perhaps reached new heights in BYU's straight-set win over Oregon (25-20, 25-21, 25-19) on Saturday. The win vaults the No. 13-seeded Cougar women's volleyball team to the round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament for a sixth straight season, with the packed Fieldhouse crowd celebrating loudly with the team right after the final point was scored.
As for that final point, if you guessed it came off a Jones-Perry kill, you'd be correct.
The junior outside hitter put through 27 kills on a .535 hitting percentage, while closing out all three sets with well-placed kills and otherwise proving much too difficult for the Ducks to handle throughout.
"You know exactly what she's going to do. We knew exactly what we wanted to do, and she just really challenges you and makes you respond and we didn't," said Oregon coach Matt Ulmer about defending BYU's leading scorer. "I thought she was extra special tonight. She's an incredible athlete. What I was most impressed with was her vision. I thought her shot selection was really phenomenal tonight."
While most everyone observing knew what type of stats Jones-Perry was putting up, the junior had to inquire about her kill total in postgame interviews.
"I just go out and I love the moment with my teammates," Jones-Perry said. "Whatever comes of that comes of that."
As for those teammates, they played a big role once again getting the ball to the Cougars' primary pin-hitter in rhythm and on point. A lot of those set-ups came by virtue of libero Mary Lake, who scored 20 digs for the second consecutive night, earning her praise from both coaches.
"I can't say enough about her performance," said BYU coach Heather Olmstead about her sophomore libero. "Whatever amount of digs she got, it wasn't just that. It was her energy. It's contagious to the team. It's her effort."
Lake's digs helped account for BYU's 50 kills to just 39 for the Ducks, which ultimately proved to be the biggest difference in the match.
After falling behind early in the first set, the Cougars took control midway through before cruising to a relatively comfortable 25-20 first-set win. Oregon appeared poised to take control of the second set, up 15-11, before the Cougars scored five straight that really got the 2,935 fans in the Smith Fieldhouse up and raucous. The Ducks fought back a bit and closed the score to 23-20 before two Jones-Perry kills closed out a 25-21 second set win.
Closing teams out late was something the Cougars struggled with in an opening-round win over American, but proved to be much more effective doing in all three sets Saturday.
"We talked about it and knew we wanted to do a better job," Olmstead said. "It's going to happen over the course of the match where you're going to lose your focus, and it happened again tonight, but happened at different points, but not at the end."
Olmstead credited her team's communication and understanding the importance of keeping focus toward the end for the improvements on Saturday.
Another key for the Cougars in turning around the second set was the play of Danelle Stetler, who subbed in off the bench to provide a good boost to the team's overall play.
"She was awesome," Olmstead said of Stetler, who finished with four kills and three digs. "Just the energy she brought. That's one of the strengths of our team — that everybody is ready to step in and have their moment, and it was hers tonight."
Oregon was led by All-Pac-12 outside hitter Taylor Agost, who scored a team-high 18 kills on a .457 hitting percentage.
With the win, BYU advances to the round of 16, where it will take on No. 4 seed Kentucky, which won a five-set match over Western Kentucky Saturday.