COLUMBIA — Fifth-year senior Amanda Hantouli never had a doubt.
Trailing 2-0 in games to Texas A&M, the Missouri women’s volleyball team kept one thing in mind.
“We kept saying in our huddle that this spring we did 6 a.m. conditioning,” Hantouli said. “We kept reminding each other that we did not do those for nothing.”
The Tigers rallied and won the next three games 25-22, 25-19 and 15-13. The last time Missouri came back from a two-set deficit was Oct. 1, 2005.
“It is the most exciting conference game that I have been in,” Hantouli said. “All my other top games have been in the tournament. As far as conference play goes this was amazing.”
Saturday night’s win was special for Hantouli. She wasn’t dominant, she didn’t lead the team to victory, she didn’t even start but she made plays when it mattered.
“That’s part of having good team,” coach Wayne Kreklow said. “You’ve got to have depth. You have to have people that understand that I may not always be out there, I may not be starter, but I’ve got to be ready.”
In the third set with Missouri leading 23-22, Hantouli was isolated at the center of the net. A perfect set lofted in front of the Aggies middle blocker.
Hantouli swatted the smash straight back over the net. As the ball bounced on the floor, she dropped to her knees celebrating what she knew was about to happen.
“It’s one of those things that just thinking about it gives you goose bumps again,” Hantouli said. “It’s an indescribable feeling. It was just amazing. Every athlete lives for those moments. That’s why you practice. That’s why you pour out blood, sweat and tears everyday.”
Hantouli’s block set Missouri up to win the third set and teeter tottered momentum the Tiger’s way.
“I just think that when people get in put in a situation like the one I’m in, you can take it one of two ways: you can either say ‘Oh poor me. I put so much into this program why aren’t they giving back to me’ or you can look at it and say ‘Hey I’m going to be a leader in other ways,’” Hantouli said.
Her next pivotal play came in the fourth set. With Tigers opening up a lead, Hantouli blocked a spike back into the face of the Aggie who got in her way. The message was clear -- Missouri was not backing down.
“I’m not a captain but I am a leader,” she said. “I’ve been through this. I’ve put five years of my life into this program and I’m not going to waste it. By no means am I going to sit here and say ‘Oh poor me I lost my starting spot.’ That’s not cool. That’s definitely not what a fifth-year senior should do.”