COLUMBIA — When Paola Ampudia speaks her native Spanish, her eyes light up and her wide smile emerges.
Ampudia, a senior outside hitter on the Missouri volleyball team, was named MVP of last weekend's Pepperdine Asics Challenge after helping the Tigers win the tournament in Malibu, Calif., with 50 kills in three matches. She was also named Big 12 Player of the Week for the second time in her two years at Missouri.
vs. Tennessee Tech 11:30 a.m.
vs. Western Kentucky 7 p.m.
vs. Central Arkansas 10:00 a.m.
vs. Virginia Tech 4:00 p.m.
Consistently, Ampudia has been a go-to player for the Tigers, a player her teammates say is a pleasure to be associated with, both on and off the court.
“She’s ‘mi hermana,’ she’s my sister,” said junior hitter Brittney Brimmage. “She’s really quiet at times, but if you really know her, she’s a little goofy and a little out there. I think that’s why we really connect.”
Ampudia, a native of Cali, Colombia, joined the Tigers just last season. Before coming to Missouri, she played for Miami Dade College where she won numerous awards, including the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Player of the Year.
She was able to come to the United States and attend both Miami Dade and Missouri because of the scholarships she received to play volleyball.
“I came to Mizzou because I liked it the most out of all the universities I had seen, and I liked the coaches,” Ampudia said. “I felt like I had found the best coaches in the world.”
Ampudia began playing volleyball when she was 10 years old, thanks to her brother, Marvin Ampudia, who is 4 years older than her. He played volleyball for the Liga Vallecaucana de Voleibol in Cali, and she wanted to play like him.
She still remains close to her brother and parents even though she is more than 2,500 miles from home.
“We’re always talking on the Internet,” she said. “Or I call them."
Then her grin returns, “My parents want to come to visit for my senior night.”
Other than her family, there’s another part of Colombia she misses a lot — dancing the salsa.
“My city is the capital of the salsa in Colombia,” she said proudly. She really enjoyed dancing in the discotecas — dance clubs — in Cali, but she has yet to dance the salsa in Missouri.
“I’ve heard about salsa dancing in Columbia, but I haven’t been able to go because it was on Wednesdays, and we play on Wednesday,” Ampudia said.
“But I will go, I will go,” she says with a twinkle in her eye.
She doubled over with laughter when she said sleeping was her favorite pastime other than volleyball.
She truly enjoys volleyball, though, and her dream is to play professionally in Europe. She doesn’t have a specific country in Europe in mind. She just wants to play.
For now, she’s an invaluable asset to the Tigers. Over the weekend, she moved from seventh to first in the Big 12 Conference for kills, averaging 4.32 per set. She has contributed 82 total kills to lead the Tigers to their 6-0 record.
Ampudia is modest about the recognition she has received, talking instead about how well the team played as a whole. But she’ll be there when her “hermanas” need her.