By Eva Buchman
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Peek onto the field at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium during any women's soccer match and you'll find an intimidating force standing on the back line. That force is senior defender Mallory Smith, who stands 5-foot-11, and is one of the anchors of the Mountaineer defense. While she may be a force to be reckoned with on the field, off it, she is the team's social butterfly.
Smith chose WVU over several other top-notch soccer programs, including Connecticut, a school close to her home. Embracing the unexpected, Smith opted to try something new.
"I feel like college should just be a different experience from what you're used to," said Smith, a Hamden, Conn., native. "I only graduated (high school) with like 60 people in my class, so (WVU) was definitely different, but that's what I wanted. I was just open to the experience and ready to embrace it all."
And embrace it she has. Over the past four years, Smith has developed a family-like bond with her teammates, and the apartment she shares with three current and former Mountaineer players is the team hangout location.
"We hang out at our place all the time," Smith said with a big smile. "We joke around about how we don't have any other friends because we literally are always together, on and off the field. You would think we'd be sick of each other, but it's the complete opposite."
Smith shares an apartment with Nicolette DeLaurentis, Bry McCarthy and Drea Barklage. While they all have worn the Old Gold and Blue on the field, Smith and McCarthy share a deeper bond. The duo has played significant roles in the Mountaineer defense the past four years. And while they haven't always played the same position like they do this year, their close relationship proves to be invaluable when it comes to communicating on the soccer field.
"On the field, I know how Mallory plays, and she knows how I play," shared McCarthy, an outside back. "I know what to expect from her and she knows what to expect from me. Every day we are getting better and we're always learning new things."
Despite her vivacious, vocal, and sometimes loud and joking personality, her teammates and coach Nikki Izzo-Brown all agree on one thing. When Smith steps on the field, she's all about the game.
"Mallory is definitely a great teammate," noted Izzo-Brown of her senior. "I think Mallory bleeds the gold and blue. She does it for the pride she has for this university, athletic department and women's soccer team. She really prides herself in being part of a family and loves her WVU women's soccer family."
Smith and her teammates, or sisters, as she affectionately refers to them, can often be found having dinner or family movie nights together, and often times, Smith makes her roommates share in her love for reality television shows. She admits their apartment is loud, and even after a long day's practice, it's truly a spot they call home. There is always a voice in the air talking or laughing to match the group of bodies relaxing on the couch.
In the moment, Smith has a lot of big changes coming her way; being that this is her last year of collegiate soccer. While she is set to graduate with a degree in management in May, she is also looking forward to guiding the team through its first year of competition in the Big 12 Conference.
"Now, I'm getting more anxious and excited to play a Big 12 opponent. My senior year is just the conference and the mentality...I want to get after these other girls."
For now, Smith will continue to use her joking, spontaneous, light-hearted personality to help channel the positive energy she always brings to the soccer field. When game time comes, she says the most important thing is to always stay hungry for competition, and make sure she leaves no regrets on the field.
"I'm very competitive, so if someone steps on our field, I know that I want it more than them," she said. "But off the field, yes I'm a jokester. I love to laugh, I love to make people laugh. When it's on the field though, it's just us and the opponent."
"It's great that she's on my team," said McCarthy, half-jokingly. "I know that if I were on the other team, I would be like 'Oh, man, I've got to watch out for that girl."'
It's that attitude, Smith says, that makes her successful. She is hoping to continue that success all season long, with the help of her best friends.