COLUMBIA — Entering Hearnes Center to thaw out frigid fingers and noses, a throng of 2,511 people settled in to watch the Missouri volleyball team take on Texas A&M.
Three of those people came from worlds away.
The Missouri volleyball team defeated Texas A&M 25-17, 25-23, 25-14 on Saturday afternoon to increase its win streak to six matches.
Missouri improves to 19-8 overall and 11-6 in the Big 12 Conference. Texas A&M drops to 12-14 overall and 6-10 in the conference.
Senior outside hitter Julianna Klein led the Tigers with 13 kills while junior outside hitter Brittney Brimmage had nine kills and a .615 hitting percentage.
Other notable performances came from freshman setter Molly Kreklow, who posted 38 assists throughout the the three sets, and senior libero Caitlyn Vann, who had 17 digs.
The Tigers play next at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Texas.
As the band blared “Fight Tiger” for the crowd, Luz Maria Ampudia clapped enthusiastically, bouncing back and forth to the beat of the music. Pablo Ampudia, digital camera in hand, stood ready to capture the moment when his daughter stepped forward and wave as her name was announced to the crowd.
Jie Wang also grasped a camera, sending off the flash as his daughter high-fived the children who stood near the court and cheered for players.
Pablo and Luz Maria Ampudia, flew in from Cali, Colombia, and arrived Saturday for the match. Jie Wang flew from China to see his daughter play.
For senior outside hitter Paola Ampudia, who was named National Player of the Week on Nov. 9 by the Sport Imports/American Volleyball Coaches Association, this was the first collegiate match her parents had ever seen her play.
“It’s lovely,” Luz Maria Ampudia, Paola Ampudia’s mother, said. “The people are so lively.”
Luz Maria Ampudia fit right in, hopping up and down while waving her arms wildly to win the Truman Toss, when Truman the Tiger throws a Missouri volleyball to the most energetic fan. She put her hands over her heart, laughing after Truman threw the ball to the fans in front of her.
Pablo Ampudia sported a Missouri letterman’s jacket throughout the match and stood up to wait faithfully as Missouri tried for the first and last points of each set, as is custom at Tiger volleyball games.
For Pablo Ampudia, the experience was unmatched. He follows his daughter and her volleyball career on the Internet from his home in Cali for all four years she’s been in the United States.
“We were able to see how she shines,” he said, smiling and placing his arm around his daughter. “And we saw it in person.”
Jie Wang has seen his daughter, Weiwen “Wendy” Wang, play for Missouri four times in person.
“He always watched me play when I was in China,” Wendy Wang said. “Sometimes he can give me some advice or suggestions if I’m not doing something well, but he always encourages me."
For two months, Wendy Wang’s father will be visiting and staying with her in her apartment. He’s staying in her bedroom and she’s sleeping in the living room because “the couch is too short for him,” Wendy Wang explained, laughing.
Both Wendy Wang and Paola Ampudia look forward to some home cooking now that their parents have come to visit.
“I’m very happy my parents are here. I’m really happy that they’re going to cook for me,” Paola added, giggling. “No, I’m joking.”
Wendy Wang described how her father cooks traditional Chinese meals that include a lot of rice and vegetables.
“It kind of lessens my burden,” she said, grinning.
Although her father isn’t as rowdy as some, Wendy Wang said she can still feel his enthusiasm.
“He is always pretty calm. He doesn’t get on his feet very much,” she said. “But deep in his heart, I believe he gets excited, even though he doesn’t show it.”
The Tigers blanked Texas A&M in three straight sets (25-17, 25-23, 25-14) at Hearnes Center. The win is the sixth straight for the Tigers, who are now 19-8 and 11-6 in Big 12 play.