COLUMBIA — When she jumps into the air, she feels a little like Michael Jordan.
Sure her 10-inch vertical leap doesn't compare to Jordan's 48-inch one, but when Missouri senior Paola Ampudia attacks the volleyball from the back row, she glides through the air.
“I feel like I’m flying,” said Ampudia, the team's outside hitter.
Ampudia kept attacking throughout Missouri’s 25-21, 25-18, 25-16 loss to No. 3 Nebraska, helping the Tigers (11-6, 3-4 Big 12) stay close. She had 14 of Missouri’s 30 kills, and she also added two blocks.
When Nebraska was up 23-15 in the second set, Ampudia leapt and reached high for a block. Then falling to one knee, she clenched her fist in celebration.
“I think, overall, P did really well,” Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow said. “I thought at the net, she did a good job.”
Ampudia’s attack came from all over the court, both front row and back row. But her signature leap came when she attacked from the back row, easily sailing from her position past the 3-meter attack line.
“I know I can find her in the back row,” freshman setter Molly Kreklow said. “She just jumps so far that I can pretty much just set it on the net and she can get it, so it’s pretty easy and a lot of fun.”
When she’s in the front row, Ampudia likes to hit off high sets. In the back row, her favorite position on the court, she likes the set low.
“It’s a lot easier for me to fly when it’s lower,” she said.
However, she does have some difficulties in the back row, mainly with her passing when she’s playing defense.
“She’s not in the back row because she’s a great defensive player,” Kreklow said. “She’s in the back row because we need that swing out of the back row.”
Ampudia’s back row swing proved to be difficult for Nebraska to handle, as Ampudia would rip the ball cross-court, and it would land squarely on Nebraska’s side of the court.
That type of steady play is what Ampudia is looking for in her teammates as the Tigers’ season progresses.
“To get to regionals and win the conference, we have to play a lot harder, like we played against Colorado,” Ampudia said. “We need to start strong and end strong. When we’re consistent all the time, we get good results.”