By Tim Goodenow for MSNsportsNET.com
September 29, 2009
Throughout the 2009 season, MSNsportsNET.com will get to know the nine freshmen on the West Virginia women’s soccer team. Today’s edition features defender Mallory Smith.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Mallory Smith is quick with a joke, an impersonation, a one-liner, or anything to make her West Virginia women’s soccer teammates and coaches smile.
It’s something that takes place at all times – in her dorm room, at the dinner table, in the locker room, at a practice session or after a game.
"I just like to have fun,” said Smith, laughing instantly when accused of being the resident team jokester. "That’s a fair claim, I guess."
Smith, a freshman from Hamden, Conn., has been all smiles since her arrival in Morgantown.
One person exposed to Smith’s personality is teammate Nicolette DeLaurentis.
“Mallory is the most laid-back person you’ll ever meet. She has a great personality and can light up a room with her jokes,” said DeLaurentis of her Lincoln Hall roommate. “She’s a quick thinker and you have to watch what you say around her. She is so good at comebacks that I don’t even speak sometimes.”
Smith is not all talk, however, as her play on the soccer field speaks volumes of her potential.
A standout player for Hamden Hall Country Day, Smith was a two-time all-state selection and was named the 2008 New Haven Soccer Officials Association Female Player of the Year.
For the past six years, Smith has excelled in club soccer, most recently with Connecticut Football Club United and has played on Connecticut Olympic Development Program teams since 2003. She helped her team win state cup championships in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008.
Smith’s play drew the interest of many of the region’s top teams, including Connecticut, Boston College, and Maryland, along with nearby Providence and Fairfield.
In the end, Coach Nikki Izzo-Brown and the Mountaineers won her over.
“Obviously, I enjoyed my visit and was impressed with Nikki’s philosophy on commitment and dedication,” explained Smith. “She really stressed about how team chemistry was a key foundation for the success of the program. And I think a lot of coaches tend to overlook that. Only Nikki had really focused on that part of the program.”
Smith’s decision to attend WVU was not an immediate one, as the 5-foot-11 defender knew very little about the Mountaineers at first.
“I didn’t know much at all to be honest,” laughed Smith. “My dad actually knew more about WVU than I did. He’s a big basketball and football fan, and knew of people like Jerry West and success those programs had. I wasn’t even sure they had a soccer program until doing some research.”
The Mountaineer coaching staff also had to convince Smith to leave her home state and look past traditional soccer-power Connecticut.
“Growing up in the state of Connecticut, if you can play at UConn, you go,” noted Smith. “They have always been successful in the BIG EAST and I knew the high level of soccer that they played. But in the end, I thought WVU was a better fit for me.”
With a firm commitment to West Virginia in tact, Smith knew it would be challenging but was determined to see significant action in her rookie season.
“When you dream, you want to dream big. Sure, I probably wanted to start and I wanted a lot of minutes,” said Smith of her expectations coming in. “At the same time, I know I’m just a freshman and will do whatever Nikki wants me to.
“I thought at first I was going to play up top as the back line was pretty solid. Then, Nikki gave me the chance to get some time at Virginia.”
Smith’s efforts paid off as she logged a career high 49 minutes against Dartmouth at the Virginia NIKE Soccer Classic.
“The performance was just okay,” said Smith of her first extensive time on the field. “Like Nikki said, I was thrown into the lion’s den but had the opportunity to step up. And I think I did that to some degree.
“It was a good opportunity to see major minutes early on in my career. It was good to be on the field and I relied heavily on Nicole Mailloux back there with me. She’s the senior leader and someone that I look up to.”
Helping Smith in the transition to the collegiate speed and style of play was two years of participation in the W-League with the CFC Passion.
“Fortunately, I was able to play in the W-League and that exposed me to some of what college was going to be like," added Smith. "This past summer was my second year of playing in it. The purpose was to help in the transition from club to collegiate soccer."
The Mountaineers are currently thick in the hunt of their fourth straight BIG EAST American Division title. And just because Smith has that fun-loving attitude about her, it doesn't mean she isn't competitive, too.
“We have to take care of business and keep the program at the top where it belongs,” said Smith.
Smith has enjoyed every minute of her first semester on campus, taking in all that Morgantown has to offer.
“Morgantown is such a neat place. The weather, the people, the hills – it’s so much different than the Northeast. I love it here and couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”