By Molly Hulsey
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Paola Ampudia has big goals for Missouri volleyball, and she's not afraid to aim high.
"I hope that we can go to nationals this year and that we can win the Big 12 conference," Ampudia said. "We have a really good team, and we can do it if we keep working together."
Although Missouri has never won a conference title in volleyball, Ampudia just might be the player to help take them there. A transfer from Miami (Fla.) Dade Community College, she was named the National Junior College Athletic Association National Player of the Year in 2007. Her team finished 23-1 with the only loss in the national championship game. In her two seasons at Miami Dade, she was conference player of the year twice.
Her winning experience and talent made Ampudia an exciting addition to the Tigers' roster, but her attitude and dedication also are valuable assets. When she speaks about her awards, Ampudia is quick to add that the accolades only make it more important for her to perform at a high level at Mizzou.
"It was really good to win (National Player of the Year), but it means there is more responsibility for me here. I have to keep playing even harder than I am now and always keep working," she said.
Ampudia is no stranger to hard work. Born in Colombia, South America, she chose to leave her home to pursue her dream of playing professional volleyball. After her two seasons at Miami Dade, Ampudia was so intent on playing for a Division I program that she spent an extra year at the school in preparation for the rigors of Missouri's larger classes. During that year, she continued to practice with Miami Dade's team to stay in shape.
Her hard work has paid off. Ampudia says she is adjusting well to her classes at Missouri and she has been successful on the court.
In September, she became the first Missouri player to earn Big 12 weekly honors on consecutive weeks when she was twice named Big 12 Rookie of the Week. She had a career-best set against Kansas, recording 15 kills, 37 attacks, and nine digs.
Ampudia has quickly connected with her teammates. It has helped that Miami Dade teammate Rosa Medrano is a Tigers teammate.
"I really like it here," Ampudia said. "I have really good friends, and I also have (Rosa). We live together, so that's great. That helped me a lot."
Ampudia calls her career at Missouri a "really big opportunity," and hopes that it can help her prepare for a volleyball career post-graduation. She dreams of playing professional volleyball in Greece, and plans to actively pursue that goal after her two seasons at Mizzou.