James setting high goals for volleyball squad

In 2001, a group of freshmen led the rebirth of UM volleyball after a 19-year hiatus. An integral part of that class was junior setter Mallorey James, who all but set the Hurricane program back in motion.
James grew up in Tucson, Arizona, a cultural melting pot a few miles from the Mexican border. She gives her hometown credit for molding her into the person she is today. She began playing volleyball there as an outside hitter, learning to become a setter only after her senior season in high school.
“At first it was hard because I was used to hitting,” James said. “[But] I just put my mind to it and my coaches were determined to make me the best that I could be.”
Her initial focus on volleyball began in sixth grade after her sister and some friends, all one year her senior, sparked her interest.
“At that time I was really big into soccer and they introduced me to volleyball and I started playing…it was a lot more fun [than soccer] to me,” James said.
James began playing on a club volleyball team in the off-season, helping to fine-tune her game and ultimately leading her to the Salpointe Catholic varsity team as a freshman. James points out that her parents pushed her to take advantage of her opportunities.
“My parents are so into volleyball, and they’re very supportive,” James said. “The second I got invited to play varsity my freshman year, they said ‘do it, it’s going to be the best experience.'”
Salpointe held onto a 52-match win streak for the duration of James’ career there. She was captain during her junior and senior years. Throughout high school, James continued to play for the Zona Volleyball Club after the regular season ended, competing in tournaments throughout the west and developing her spirit and character through one of her greatest inspirations: Zona Club Coach A.J. Malis.
“He is like a second dad to me, he was always there for me, pushing me,” James said. “He knew the type of player that I could be and he pushed me all the way there. He was always behind me and helping me out.”
Although now 2,300 miles from her former club team’s base, Malis’ words often serve as a wake-up call for James when she gets down on her game.
“I’m very critical of myself because I’m a perfectionist in a lot of ways, but he always told me that ‘you’re going to make mistakes, you’re not going to be perfect,” she said. “Just do the best job that you can and that’s all you can ask of yourself.”
After arriving in Coral Gables in the fall of 2001, James took with her the spirit of Tucson but never felt uncomfortable with the transition from high school to college. With the help of teammates, she kicked into high gear and became what she calls the “quarterback” of the volleyball team.
“My job is to make the best play possible out of the pass, just run the offense and get good balls up for my attackers,” James said. “I’m basically out there to help my teammates score.”
Off the court, James is an entrepreneurship major, hoping to break into sports marketing. It was a natural choice for her to combine business with all she’s ever known.
“I’ve been involved in sports my entire life, and it’s one thing that just really excites me and motivates me,” she said.
One of James’ greatest achievements came at the end of the 2002 season, when she was honored with Big East Setter of the Year.
“I was in complete shock because I never expected something like that,” James said. “I would not have gotten that award without my hitters and my passers. It felt so good…it was a motivator to get back into the game and try to do it again.”
In the season ahead, James hopes to lead her team back to the NCAA Tournament and make even more progress there than they did last season. Letting each other down, James contends, is not an option.
Given her love of the sport and the emphasis she places on supportive teammates and coaches, James has truly found her niche as a Hurricane.
“It was a dream of mine to play at a big-name school, and here I am,” she said. “I am the luckiest person, being able to play for Nicole [Lantagne Welch] and have teammates like I do…it’s a dream come true.”
Melissa Teich can be reached at melissateich@hotmail.com