Attention To Detail Made UCLA's Briana Perez Great
Before the 2021 college softball season started, Briana Perez made a deal with head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez and the rest of the UCLA coaching staff. She was going to hit 10 home runs this season.
As the Bruins head back to Oklahoma City to attempt to defend their national title, Perez has hit 13 home runs. That puts her amongst her powerful teammates Rachel Garcia (12), Maya Brady (13) and Delanie Wisz (14).
“This year she set a goal to hit more home runs. She’s always been capable, but it’s the ability to figure out what we want from her,” Inouye-Perez said. “She wanted to get on base before because that’s what we wanted her to do. This year we wanted her to have more power numbers, and just like that it happened.”
The power stroke doesn’t come as a surprise to those who know Perez best. Her attention to detail has made her one of the most well-rounded players in the country. When she puts her mind to something, she’s going to put the work in.
“She’s constantly putting in work early and late at the field, going there when nobody is up there,” said Kylee Perez, Briana’s older sister and former UCLA teammate. “She works just as hard in the classroom. You’ll always catch her studying or doing some type of homework while everybody else is hanging out.”
From a very early age, Briana and Kylee’s parents, Sonja and Jeff, had them playing a vast range of sports such as volleyball, soccer and running track. When Kylee started taking softball more seriously, Briana followed in her footsteps.
Sonja and Jeff also taught their daughters how important the minor details are in sports, school and life.
“Growing up, my parents made sure that every minor detail was important and that I paid attention to those details,” Briana Perez said. “As simple as sprinting out to your position in travel ball and high school. I have to credit them for that and caring about the little details.”
The four letters of UCLA mean a lot to Perez, she’s prideful in putting in the work to be the best and representing one of the best programs in the nation. That, too, also started early.
“Bri Perez is so great at everything she does because of that attention to detail,” Inouye-Perez said. “There’s a common thread that runs through all the greatest that have ever played at UCLA, and being around some of the best that have ever been in the sport, is that attention to detail in the little things.
“When we met the Perez family, they were such a great fit for us...A lot of their ethics and morals align with what it means to be a Bruin. They take pride in representing something bigger than themselves, they work hard...I credit Sonja and Jeff for a great job.”
The little things reflect her accolades as well. The redshirt junior has earned All-Pac-12 first-team honors every season the awards have been given out since she arrived at UCLA. Perez has had a .360 batting average or better every year despite her team's rigorous Pac-12 schedule. She also has three Pac-12 All-Defensive Team honors to her name as well.
As a fourth-year Bruin, Perez has taken on more of a leadership role. Every moment captured on television of the team having fun is pure, even when Perez’s teammates wrap her in a jump rope during a post-game interview.
She’s loved that role all season long.
“This year has been special to me as that upperclassman being in that leadership role and getting to show others the ropes,” Perez said. “When the camera is on us in the dugout and we’re jumping around, laughing, that’s real stuff. We are having so much fun, but this group is definitely something special.”
“The girls as a team pick Bri as that person to follow,” Inouye-Perez said. “She’s such a great model. She works hard, she studies hard, she’s a great leader and she loves this team.”
People who have never played the game at its highest level might not understand the skill it takes to do what Briana Perez has done for the past four years. Maybe she’s been hidden behind her fellow All-American teammates and the star power in the Pac-12, but her biggest supporters are even astonished by her play on a daily basis.
“She’s a very quiet player and makes things look a lot easier than most people,” Kylee said. “Playing for so many years and knowing how hard the plays are she’s doing and how easy she makes them look is absolutely insane. She might not get credit for those because she makes them look so easy.”
Inouye-Perez truly believes shortstops don’t get much better than Perez.
“Bri plays the game straight up and she plays it hard,” Inouye-Perez said. “...If you put everyone side-by-side, all the shortstops in the country, you would see a different level of athleticism in Bri Perez. She is a unique athlete...We’ve seen her make plays that most don’t make, and we’ve had some special shortstops. We truly believe she’s the best shortstop in the country. Her physical ability, her IQ, she has range, the arm, glove, I can’t even think what could make Bri Perez better.”