"Jaleh" means "morning dew" in Persian, and in some ways that kind of fresh imagery is what Corona del Mar High junior Jaleh Moaddeli got for this girls' water polo season.
Moaddeli was on varsity for her freshman and sophomore seasons for CdM, but didn't play too much.
She said she was in the water for just nine seconds in last season's Battle of the Bay game, to be exact. Who's counting? Moaddeli did.
"I was kind of bummed that I wasn't getting playing time, but I was really happy to be on varsity," Moaddeli said. "It was kind of tough, but I got through it. It was a good growing experience."
As it turns out, "Morning Dew" is not just a Grateful Dead song. Jaleh has sprung to life as a junior and emerged as one of the top field players in the CIF Southern Section.
Corona del Mar (20-8), which plays No. 3-seeded San Marcos in the Division 1 quarterfinals Saturday at 10:15 a.m. at Santa Barbara High, has even leaned on Moaddeli at times late in the season. The offensive production of the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week has been top-notch.
She leads CdM — and all Newport-Mesa players — with 75 goals this season. But to watch Moaddeli is to know that her game is very well-rounded. Her 34 assists make her second on the Sea Kings to junior Sarah Lawson in that category. Her 33 steals are second to CdM sophomore Chloe Harbilas.
"I'm just really proud of Jaleh and the growth," CdM Coach Kevin Ricks said. "Certainly you see it when you look at the scoring line and she's scoring goals for us, but I think she's also showed some great growth in terms of leadership and maturity. The coaches and the team expect her to be a leader and lead by example, and I think she's really starting to understand that."
That's why, when senior co-captain and UCLA-bound center Bridgett Storm battled sickness two weeks ago during the Irvine Southern California Championships tournament, Moaddeli stepped up. She was an all-tournament team selection, helping CdM finish a strong fifth in the 32-team tournament.
That was Moaddeli flying around the pool as the Sea Kings blitzed rival Newport Harbor, 10-4, in a Southern California Championships second-round game on Feb. 4. Moaddeli finished with team-highs of four goals and three assists.
She even topped that the next day, in the tournament fifth-place game against Royal. CdM avenged a loss to Royal at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions to win, 13-9, and Moaddeli had a monster game. She matched her cap number by scoring six goals, adding three assists. It was the sixth time this season that she had scored four or more goals.
With Storm out or limited for much of that tournament, Moaddeli even went into two meters, scoring a couple of nice backhand goals from there in the Newport Harbor game. In that last Royal game, the Sea Kings scored three goals as Moaddeli drove inside, then took the precision pass from Lawson from the right side.
"I feel like I'm a pretty dynamic player," Moaddeli said. "Whenever I decide to go into set or play these different positions, my team is always there to encourage me, always gets the ball exactly where it needs to be at the right time. That makes it really easy for me to put the ball away."
She is a very experienced water polo player. But the first thing she tried as a kid was ballet.
"I remember we used to jump over these trash cans," Moaddeli said. "All of the parents outside would tell my parents, 'Wow, she's really good at that, she looks so strong.' And so my parents were like, 'OK, she's probably not made for ballet.'"
Moaddeli found a home in water polo, starting playing club at SET at age 7. From there it was to Anteater (now called Back Bay), and then CdM.
After Ricks was hired in May, Moaddeli certainly emerged last summer at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics, helping CdM finish a more-than-respectful 14th place while going up against many all-star club teams that featured girls from several high schools.
"I feel like I kind of had a fresh start with a new coach I didn't have a lot of pressure on me," Moaddeli said. "The past two years, if I made a mistake, I knew I was going to get out [of the game] right away. During summer, I felt pretty fearless. I actually had a position, a role on the team that made a difference. I felt like that made me grow, and I was able to step up a lot of the time."
She is a key reason why CdM is back in the CIF quarterfinals Saturday, for its fourth meeting of the year with San Marcos. The Knights have won the previous three, though each of the last two meetings went to sudden-death overtime.
Moaddeli turns 17 on Sunday. She wants CdM's season to still be continuing when she does.
"We're really prepared," Moaddeli said of the Sea Kings, who beat Villa Park, 13-4, in the first round of the playoffs on Wednesday. "We've been working hard this whole season, had really good outcomes in all our games. We definitely have a chance to win CIF. It's a pretty even playing field."
Saturday's game is early, but CdM will have its own personal "morning dew" there, ready to make an impact.
Born: Feb. 21, 1999
Hometown: Newport Beach
Sport: Water polo
Coach: Kevin Ricks
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite movie: "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"
Favorite athletic moment: Helping CdM win the Pan Pacific tournament in New Zealand in July, 2014.