Senior kicks it up a notch

By Amanda Branam
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 1, 2005

Forward pulling double duty in team's successes

It seems that senior midfielder Mallory Miller suffers from split personalities.

Or maybe, she thrives because of them.

Maybe that is why her teammates on the Arizona women's soccer team fumble around while trying to find the right words to describe her.

"She's one of a kind," said fellow senior Nikki David, laughing in between sentences at the very mention of Miller's name. "That's the best way I can say it. She's completely different from any person I've ever known."

On the pitch, Miller is all business, all the time. Teammates describe the Tucson native as not only the most intense player on the team, but also the most laid-back, with the best sense of humor, all in the same breath.

"Off the field, I like to joke around and have a good time," Miller said. "On the field, I like to take care of business."

If taking care of business can be measured in goals scored, Miller is no doubt playing up to her standards.

She scored the team's first goal of the season in an exhibition game against NAU, laying out for a diving header.

In the first official game of the season Friday against Missouri, she scored two goals less than a minute apart to give the Wildcats the 2-0 win in their home opener.

It's the first season that Miller will spend most of her time at forward, as opposed to her native center midfielder position. She's quickly turning into the Wildcats' go-to player.

Once a drill at practice is done with, or the whistle blows to end the game, Miller is the go-to player for some comic relief.

While many people think athletes struggle with separating their two lives, Miller said she has always been able to make the distinction between intensity on the field and rolling with the punches off it.

She was a four-year letter-winner for Salpointe High School's team, and said she wasn't really interested in playing at Arizona, mostly because she just wanted to get out of Tucson for a few years.

Once she realized the opportunities the UA offered on both the academic and athletic levels, she said she decided to stay in her hometown.

For the Wildcat women's soccer program, it's a decision much appreciated. Miller finished last season with five goals and nine assists to lead the team in overall points. She's started every game the Wildcats have played since she arrived on campus.

Even Miller's plans for after her soccer career indicate her ability to be intense one moment and fun the next.

At first, Miller said she wants to possibly get into coaching a club team, no doubt using her fiery nature on the field to motivate younger soccer players.

She also said that at some point she wants to use the elementary education degree she plans to earn in May and teach kindergarten or first grade.

"There's a lot of ways to describe Mal," said senior midfielder Jennifer Klein, one of Miller's closest friends on the team. "There's a lot about her. ... She's very unique."

While her persona off the field is seemingly quite different from that on it, her competitiveness stays the same. If there is any way to make a competition out of something, her teammates said, Miller will do it, and she will likely win.

"She has probably one of the best competitive edges and attitudes on the team," Klein said. "She's just as competitive outside of soccer, which makes her fun to hang out with."

Take Klein's first-hand experience. On a trip to Sushi Hama restaurant with Miller, the two got to joking about the all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant. Suddenly a sushi-eating competition was born.

It became a yearly event, but Klein said it's a tradition they might retire because eating too much sushi in one sitting can have its consequences. Whether they officially retire from the competition or bring it back, Miller has a 2-0 lead on Klein.

"I have yet to beat her, and I don't think I ever will," Klein said.

Luckily for Klein and the rest of Miller's teammates, they don't have to worry about Miller beating them in a game situation, which she does in multiple ways every game.

As a forward, she will try to lead the team in scoring, while retaining her old role by trying to lead the team in sarcastic comments.

Just how she wants it.