COLUMBIA — On the field at Walton Stadium during an early-season soccer game, a Missouri player wearing a white No. 21 jersey trotted onto the field for a substitution. In the stands, fans applauded the newest Tiger on the pitch. Above the fans, confusion reigned supreme in the press box. There wasn’t a No. 21 on the Missouri roster.
Who was this mystery player gliding around the field at forward for Missouri?
“That’s Mallory,” someone finally said.
Mallory Forst, a junior, is listed as No. 1 on the roster, the number she dons when wearing her light blue goalkeeper’s jersey.
This season, Forst was relegated to a backup role at goalie after starting at the position last year, but she has played in several games as a forward while also seeing some time in goal in relief of this year’s starter, sophomore Tasha Dittamore.
“(Mallory is) a good role model for our team,” Missouri coach Bryan Blitz said. “The team comes first, and she sacrificed for the team ... it would be hard for a lot of people.”
After a preseason competition for the starting goalkeeper job, Dittamore was named the starter just before the first game. Aware of Forst’s ability to play in the field, Blitz talked with her about playing forward to add depth.
“Early in the day, Coach Blitz said Tasha had the starting job for now,” Forst said. “Later, he called me and brought me into his office. He said, ‘It’s totally up to you, but would you like to play some at forward?’ If I’m not in goal, I want to be in the game, so I said yes.”
Forst has a history of playing both as a forward and a keeper, depending on her team’s needs. Forst exclusively played forward until midway through her seventh grade year, when her team’s goalie was injured. She then stepped in and filled the void. In high school, at St. Joseph’s Academy in Ballwin, Mo., Forst played both positions.
While Missouri coaches recognized Forst’s ability to play forward, they recruited her primarily as a goalkeeper.
“I think initially we looked at Mallory as a goalkeeper and just with that extra benefit she played on the field,” Blitz said.
After playing three games in goal as a freshman, Forst was the starting goalie during her sophomore season. She started 17 of Missouri’s 19 games and recorded shutouts in her first four collegiate outings. Forst posted a 1.50 goals against average last year.
This season, while Missouri has started 4-2, Forst has played 159 minutes in goal and 108 minutes at forward. She also leads the team in an interesting category: jerseys.
“I have more jerseys than anybody on the team,” Forst said.
Forst has three goalkeeper jerseys, including the light blue color she helped pick out a few years ago, as well as the white and black jerseys regular players have. She wears whichever one the team needs her to wear.
Sometimes she has to switch on the fly. Friday night, playing at No. 1 Stanford, Forst was wearing her white jersey and playing forward when Dittamore collided with Stanford’s Kelley O’Hara and was injured. Those on the Missouri sideline formed a wall around Forst while she changed into her goalkeeper’s jersey. Seconds later, she was in goal against the nation’s top-ranked team.
“Quite an entrance,” Forst said.
With Dittamore hurt, Forst also started Sunday’s game against No. 3 Santa Clara and made six saves. Although Missouri lost both games by one goal, Blitz said Forst was impressive against tough competition.
“Mallory really stepped up and played very well, especially on Sunday against Santa Clara,” Blitz said. “Friday she had to come right off the bench and play. She handled it very well. She was composed.”
Besides filling in for Dittamore in goal, Forst has helped Dittamore in practice. Dittamore said they help each other out when they are having off days. Forst said she focuses on encouraging her teammate.
“I encourage her more than I teach her,” Forst said. “We work pretty well together.”
Dittamore said she appreciates Forst’s personality.
“Mallory is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Dittamore said. “She’s never crabby.”
Blitz said Forst is good at building relationships with her teammates.
“She’s very connected off the field,” Blitz said. “She’s one of our popular players because she can connect with a lot of different players on our team.”
Out in the field, Blitz said Forst has found a way to excel as a forward. She has fired off three shots in her time at forward.
“Mallory’s a competitor,” Blitz said. “I think she wants to be a goalkeeper first but she’s such a team player ... she wants to help out the team. Right now it’s not in goal, it’s out in the field.”