For some the game of volleyball comes as easily and fluidly as water does to a duck and for others, it requires hours of thankless hard work and effort.
For Waxahachie High School's Audrey Nalls, it was a little of both.
Her shattering of Courtney Miller's 2011 school's kill record (607) on Oct. 28 represents more than just a mark on the board, but it also marked a culmination of dedication to the sport she loves.
And of an even stranger story and the love of her parents Angie and Noel Nalls.
"I have always been the tallest in my classes even as a little kid," said Audrey, the Lady Indians' imposing 6-foot outside hitter. "When I was little, though, I never thought about the future or even playing volleyball. I lived in the moment and was concerned about winning whatever game we played at recess."
Unlike most players who reach the pinnacle of capturing a major award in a district that contains the likes of Shelby Martin, Madelyn Ward, Capri Davis, Josannah Vasquez, Katie Hess and Serena Patterson, Audrey's experience has been considerably limited by comparison.
"She played soccer, softball and basketball [when she was younger]," Angie added with a smile. "She's had horses, too. Audrey didn't start playing volleyball until she was in seventh grade and really didn't truly love it until the eighth. From that point on, she started playing volleyball year round — Waxahachie volleyball in the fall, club volleyball in the winter and spring and sand volleyball in the summer. People may not realize the time and effort she puts into the sport daily. Truthfully, we realized that volleyball was her sport around this time last year.
"She was blessed with raw athletic ability for sure, but she does spend a lot of time practicing volleyball and working in specific skills. We have tried to teach our kids not to settle for just being good and to do what needs to be done to be great while remaining humble and grateful for the people around them and the talents they've been given.
Audrey ended her season with 683 total kills in 2016, better than 482 other girls — good for a No. 18 national ranking — in MaxPreps Top 500. In the state, she was the fifth best hitter and eclipsed the No. 6 girls by at least 12 kills.
Only San Antonio Holy Cross High School's Henrianna Ibarra (1873 kills), Houston Cypress Falls High School's Yossiana Pressley (1707 kills), Columbus High School's Hali Wisnoskie (1827 kills) and Cypress Woods High School's Paige Sebesta (1866 kills) were better in Texas.
The four girls mentioned above are also seniors. Audrey is not only a sophomore, but she is also the only one of that grade in the top 30 in the state and only the third in the top 20 nationally.
In little more than 48 months — the distance in time from her seventh grade to sophomore year — Audrey has become far less than the brute and physical specimen her opponents may see on the other side of the net, though.
According to Lady Indian head coach Sandy Faussett, the little girl from the country corner of a small city is cerebral, calculating and self-aware.
"I've known Audrey since she was a little girl," she said. "I used to watch her play soccer on the same team as my daughter. She always stood out as a great athlete — fast, strong, aggressive and of course very talented — but she has shown tremendous growth as a volleyball player and really worked hard to develop her skills. People notice the obvious, that she has an incredible physical presence and has a very aggressive style of play. She is also an incredibly intelligent and continues to be a student of the game. You can have talent, but progressing in the game of volleyball and being able to play in a system with other girls takes the type of talent, humility, hard work, maturity and sacrifice Audrey shows on a daily basis."
There, Audrey said, is where her motivation lies. Not in awards or accolades, district championships or regional titles. Not for the college scholarships and national and state-level attention those awards and that type of fame brings, either.
At Audrey's core, she is still the biggest little girl in the class, one striving to value team over individual and normal over extraordinary.
For the newly-minted sophomore District 10-5A MVP and one of Waxahachie's most dominant hitters in the Sandy Faussett-era, it is the 12 girls who go to battle with her that keep her going and loving the game she's progressed so mercurially.
"I wish I could take all of the credit for having success in volleyball, but it's God, my family, great coaches, and amazing friends who get the credit," Audrey said bashfully. "Without them, I'm not here and I don't lift that award. I started playing and really loving volleyball when I was in junior high school and I've had great coaches and the opportunity to meet some great girls from all over. I've learned each one is as important a piece of who I am to this point as the next and that there is more to volleyball than just playing the game from some of the upperclassmen I've had the privilege to play with during my two years at WHS. They have taught me to laugh and have fun and, most importantly, to respect the opponent on the other side of the net and love the ones standing by my side."