Watch Kelly Naylor play for the Oakland Mills field hockey team. Covered in the protective gear that clearly marks her as a goalie, Naylor likes to charge opposing shooters and force mistakes. She can execute a kick save cleanly, but she is just as eager to stop a shot in traffic with a well-timed slide. No one looks more comfortable throwing her body to the ground while breaking up a score at close range.
"I like being back there and feeling like I have control of what's going on in front of me," says Naylor, who punctuates every statement with a cheery grin and a chuckle. "I like being able to make decisions and have a repertoire of things [moves] to try. I like making a difference in the outcome of the game."
That aggressiveness is a prime reason Naylor walked into a starting role as a freshman goalkeeper. It also helps explain the 12.5-save average that made her a Howard County Sun All-County pick last year as a sophomore, and why she has averaged more than eight saves during the Scorpions' 4-4-1 season.
But field hockey is only one place where Naylor throws herself into the action. Consider the other priorities in her life.
These days, many people talk about the environment. Naylor acts on her concerns for it. She works for the Columbia-based Grassroots Coalition for Environmental and Economic Justice, which sends her to schools and churches around the state to talk to people about "caring for their earth community. Drinking water, trees, everything that's in their community."
Not all of Naylor's saves are made on the playing field. She's the co-president of SAVE, the school's Students Against Violations of the Earth club. Naylor wrote a proposal last year that persuaded the school to replace throwaway, foam lunch trays with reusable plastic trays. That plan is under review at Wilde Lake and Mount Hebron. Because of Naylor's input, Oakland Mills has a comprehensive recycling program.
The environment is only the beginning for Naylor. After serving as the secretary of her freshman and sophomore classes, she is the head delegate to Howard County Association of Student Councils and chairman of the Community Service Committee, the student government for all eight county high schools.
And then there is the Explorers Club, where Naylor gets to exercise her camping, rock-climbing, survival and search-and-rescue skills as a vice president of training. One of about 40 members of the group, Naylor has been called at 3 a.m. to assist the Red Cross in search of missing people in places such as Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
And she maintains a 4.0 grade-point average.
"Sometimes I get stressed out, when there are a whole bunch of things going on at one time. My parents are real supportive," says Naylor. "I try to get involved."
Oakland Mills second-year principal Dave Bruzga met Naylor when she wrote her proposal last year. "A lot of people do things just to build their resumes, but Kelly is involved for the sake of helping people," he said. "We have a lot of service-oriented people at this school. Kelly rises to the top in that area. She's a genuinely caring young person."
And a genuinely athletic one. Naylor rode horses competitively, figure-skated and played ice hockey for the Howard County Youth Hockey Club by the time she was 10. As the only girl on her team, she played defense for 60 games over a four-month traveling season for several years. She gave up club hockey three years ago but continues to play on the school team.
"I didn't get to hit people until I was 13," says Naylor, 5 feet 8. "A lot of guys I've played against I've known for a long time. Sometimes there are guys who will go all-out, especially if I hit them first, and they've got something to prove. I just push back."
Said Oakland Mills coach Chris Marsiglia: "It [ice hockey] helped her in terms of her aggressiveness. She's one of the fastest, strongest people on the team. I saw right away that Kelly had Division I potential."
Hockey will be a priority for Naylor in college, although she says she will not let it hold sway over the rest of her college experience. She plans to pursue engineering.
"I want to be someplace where there's a lot of things going on," she says. "I enjoy meeting new people and hearing new ideas. Academics are really No. 1 on my list."