Malaika Naulls is smiling again, which means somebody on the other side of the net is not.
A senior middle blocker at Harvard-Westlake High, Naulls averaged nearly three blocks a game this season and left her mark--sometimes literally--on opponents.
Naulls, The Times' all-region girls' volleyball player of the year, had a .510 hitting percentage and, despite getting less than five sets a game, finished with 201 kills.
But she'd rather be blocking.
"She turns around and gets this big grin," teammate Christine Bohle said. "And she does this thing with her arms that's like, 'Yeah.' "
Naulls was named the Mission League player of the year and was a first-team All-Southern Section selection for the second consecutive year.
Colleges, including Florida and Texas, have noticed the 6-foot-1 Naulls, who has yet to peak athletically.
"There's more she can do," Harvard-Westlake Coach Jess Quiroz said. "Coaches see that and say, 'Wow, we can build on this.' "
Even her parents get into the sport.
Her father, Willie, a leading UCLA basketball player in the mid-1950s, and her mother, Anne, who keeps the team stats, attend every match.
Naulls kept her mother especially busy during a match against Westlake in the Santa Barbara tournament when she had 21 kills and 25 blocks.
Naulls stepped aside last year and moved to opposite hitter so that Lindsay McNiel, now at Virginia, and Bettina Korek, now at Princeton, could patrol the middle.
The move worked. Naulls was effective from the right side, especially on the block, and the Wolverines won state and sectional titles.
This year, the Wolverines captured the section's Division III-A title, despite a scare from San Luis Obispo.
Trailing in games, 1-0, Naulls stepped up and helped control 6-1 middle blocker Heather Wintermeyer, whose 53 kills in a previous playoff match were two short of the state record.
Naulls blocked consecutive attempts by Wintermeyer early in the second game and the Wolverines won in four, validating Quiroz's words the day before the match.
"When she's on fire, she dominates," he said.
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All-Region Volleyball / First Team
Middle blocker, 6-1
Boller helped the Indians to their first Foothill League title and was named the league's player of the year. Boller, who has committed to Loyola Marymount, led the team in blocks.
Outside hitter, 6-0
McCartin was the first Southern Section Division I selection from Saugus. She led the Centurions in aces and was the team's primary passer. McCartin had five matches with 20 or more kills.
Swing hitter, 5-11
From kills to digs to serving prowess to defense at the net, Bohle does it all. A three-time All-Southern Section selection, she played on two sectional championship teams and one state titlist.
Opposite hitter, 6-2
An key on offense with 279 kills, she was also a key on defense with 87 blocks. Miller was a Southern Section Division II selection and was named All-Marmonte League for the third straight year.
Rundle helped Westlake advance to the Southern Section Division II-A final and was chosen Marmonte League player of the year. She is Westlake's career leader in assists with 3,010.
Hilda Osmanian, Notre Dame, Sr.
Setter, 5-6. A three-time All-Mission League selection, she set a school season record with 604 assists. She finished with 34 aces, two short of another season record.
Nikki Guerra, Royal, Sr.
Middle blocker, 6-0. An All-Southern Section Division I selection, Guerra posted the school's third-highest season marks in kills (326) and blocks (105).
Angela Eckmier, Van Nuys, Jr.
Middle blocker, 6-1. An All-City Section 4-A Division selection, she had 136 kills, 63 blocks and 32 aces for the Valley Pac-8 Conference champions.
Flintridge Sacred Heart, Sr.
Middle blocker, 5-11. The Southern Section Division IV player of the year, Doran was the heart of the Tologs, who won their first section title since 1987.
Alyssa Hain, La Reina, Sr.
Opposite hitter/setter, 5-8. The two-time Tri-Valley League most valuable player set school career records with 1,537 assists and 277 aces. She's a repeat selection to The Times' all-region team.
Heather Hutchison, Westlake, Jr.
Outside hitter, 5-9. Led the Warriors with 294 kills and was named All-Marmonte League for the second time. An All-Southern Section Division II selection, she can touch 9 feet 5.