Technically speaking, Mallory Ward is a setter for the Mansfield volleyball team.
But with a recent growth spurt and excellent jumping ability, Ward can attack with her hitting at any time, which gives Mansfield a potent third option to go with outside hitters Kaylie Pyles and Erin Reano.
"When Mallory was in junior high, she was a tiny little thing, about 5-foot-1 inches or 5-2," Mansfield coach April Howell said. "She was always a very good setter because she is quick and smart and is a good passer, but she never really got a chance to attack because she couldn’t get up over the net."
While unusual for girls to grow late, Ward said it is a family trait and she has grown about six inches since eighth grade and last year she tuned into a potent attack weapon.
"That gives us an advantage when we can switch directions and set Mallory and she can attack," Howell said. "It can throw off their defense and she can score some quick points."
While still slightly built at 5-7, Ward is a fierce competitor that plays basketball, softball and track. Howell says one of the things that makes Ward special is she plays best when the heat is on high.
"She is not scared of anything and she likes the ball in the pressure situations," Howell said. "She gets the other girls involved and has a good sense of the flow of the game. When we need a big play, she is a clutch player."
Last year, Mansfield had to win in the semifinals at Harding Academy to make the 3A state title match. Before a packed house, Ward came up with one of her biggest games to help the Tigers beat the defending state champions and go on to their second state championship in school history.
"We really wanted to beat Harding because they beat us in the finals the year before that," Ward said. "That was the hardest game I have every played in, but I loved it. Our team has been playing together for so long we know each other and we trust each other out there on the court."
Mansfield has a bye to the championship of the 3A-West District Tournament which the Tigers are hosting next week and then will move on the 3A state tournament in Harrison.
Mansfield has won titles in 2009 and 2012 but has never won back-to-back.
"Since we won last year, we have made it our goal to go back and win it again," Ward said. "This is our last year and we don’t want to let it get away."