Alex Musselman loves to read.
In an era of ever-shrinking attention spans, the Corona del Mar High junior still can't resist the pull of a good book. The "Harry Potter" series is one of her favorites.
"I read huge books," Musselman said. "It's weird. No one likes to read anymore, but I love it. l find books in my house and I'll just read them."
Opposing coaches don't necessarily have to read up on Musselman, who recently finished her second year as starting goalie for the CdM girls' water polo team. They're more likely to watch tape on Musselman, reading between the lines and looking for weaknesses, not that there's too many of those.
This year she carved out a reputation as perhaps the best goalie in high school. Whether it was her pinpoint passes to spark the CdM counterattack or her season-high 18 saves in the CIF Southern Section Division I semifinals, Musselman came into her own. Every time your head turned, she was making another play.
For her talents in the cage, she is the Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year for the Newport-Mesa area.
Though she has another year left in high school, nobody could deny Musselman's talent as a special goalie. Want proof? Musselman was one of just two goalies voted to the All-CIF Southern Section Division I first team, the other being Santa Barbara sophomore Maddie Trabucco.
Musselman, who stands six-feet tall, helped a relatively young CdM team reach significant heights. The Sea Kings won the Pacific Coast League and reached the CIF semifinals, both for the 12th straight year.
CdM Coach Sam Bailey has said the goalie is the most important position in water polo. Musselman is following a long line of standout goalies for CdM like current assistant coach Brittany Fullen, Tumua Anae, Kate Murphy and Kate Baldoni.
Musselman has worked on her passing. One of the ways involves another goalie holding a hula hoop on the opposite end of the pool, with Musselman trying to pass the ball through the hoop.
Bailey said it's a combination of Musselman's natural talent and work ethic that make her a special player. He said he's talked to a couple of college coaches, and Musselman passes better than any high school goalie they've seen in quite a few years.
"And she's very coachable," Bailey said. "She does a great job of listening."
Musselman made 331 saves this year for the Sea Kings. She may not have read quite as many books, but that's OK.
She helped author a special season for the Sea Kings.
Here's a look at the 10 other Newport-Mesa girls' water polo players who join Musselman on this year's Dream Team:
Corona del Mar
The junior center came on strong late in the season for the Sea Kings, earning all-tournament team honors at the Irvine Southern California Championships.
Murphy, a first-team All-Pacific Coast League selection, was second on CdM in both goals (61) and steals (35). A second-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I selection, she also was one of the Sea Kings' better defenders.
The youngest of three siblings, Murphy joins her brother Jacob and sister Kate as Dream Team water polo honorees from CdM.
The Stanford-bound defender was pressed into shooting more this year. Carpenter, a team captain, responded by being second on the Sailors in goals scored for much of the year. She finished fourth on the team in goals, with 32. She led Newport Harbor in assists (30) and steals (43). The totals made her first on the team in total points (goals, assists and steals) with 105.
Carpenter was first-team All-Sunset League and second-team All-CIF Division I for Newport Harbor, which finished second in league and advanced to the Division I quarterfinals before falling to a red-hot Laguna Beach squad.
Corona del Mar
Saunders shared the MVP award in the Pacific Coast League, emerging as perhaps the Sea Kings' best all-around field player in her junior year. She could set, defend, post up or generally do whatever Coach Sam Bailey asked.
Saunders, who led the team with 66 goals, also earned a reputation as a clutch player. Her game-winning goal in overtime against Laguna Beach on Dec. 31 helped CdM reach the finals of the Holiday Cup, which turned out to be the team's best tournament placing of the season. Saunders, a first-team All-CIF Southern Section Division I selection, also led the team with 42 steals and had 30 assists.
McLaren was listed as a defender, but the redhead also became her team's primary threat on offense in her junior year. She scored a team-high 60 goals, despite missing nearly two weeks at the end of the regular season with a rib injury.
McLaren was a first-team All-Sunset League selection as well as first-team All-CIF Division I, the only Newport Harbor player to earn the latter honor.
Corona del Mar
Papa and teammate Ally McCormick were often the ones who were seen sparking the dangerous CdM counterattack. The two players were only sophomores this year, a scary thought for opposing defenses.
Papa, a second-team All-Pacific Coast League selection, finished with 56 goals, 45 assists and 23 steals for CdM. She was a vocal leader and displayed a maturity beyond her years that should only help the Sea Kings over the next two years as well.
The UCLA-bound Wilkey, like Musselman, earned a reputation as one of the top goalies in Division I. It was easy to see why, as she didn't miss a beat in her first year starting on varsity.
Wilkey had 285 saves and was named the Most Outstanding Goalie at the Irvine Southern California Championships. She earned first-team All-Sunset League and second-team All-CIF nods. Her steady play helped the Sailors defeat Back Bay rival CdM in all three of the teams' meetings this year.
Corona del Mar
The sophomore lefty did a lot for the Sea Kings, even beyond her obvious speed on the counterattack. She won plenty of quarter-opening sprints for CdM and was also deadly from the perimeter, firing cross-cage with great success.
McCormick, a second-team All-Pacific Coast League selection, also showed she was a gifted passer. She had 60 goals but also led the league with 62 assists, including an eye-opening nine assists in a third-place semifinal victory over Montebello in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.
The senior center was one of two returning starters this year for Newport Harbor, along with Carpenter. She provided leadership late in the season at the Irvine Southern California Championships, scoring three goals and also stepping up defensively in a 7-4 victory over Corona del Mar in an Irvine Southern California Championships quarterfinal. Obenauer, named to the all-tournament team at Irvine, helped the Sailors finish third despite missing McLaren.
Obenauer, who also excelled finishing off six-on-five opportunities, finished second on the Sailors with 41 goals scored. She was fourth in both assists (19) and steals (28). She was a second-team All-Sunset League selection and third-team All-CIF Division I.
DeMarzo, who finished second on the Mustangs with 44 goals scored, showed senior leadership. Coach Tim Postiff said DeMarzo and sophomore Kellie Thorsness stepped up at two meters as senior Sydney Rosello missed time early in the season with an elbow and shoulder injury.
DeMarzo helped Mesa defeat rival Estancia in its final league game to finish second in the Orange Coast League, advancing to the playoffs after missing them a year ago. She was a first-team all-league selection.
A four-year varsity starter, Carpenter helped take the Eagles to new heights in her senior year. Carpenter, who was second on the team to sophomore Ilene Umansky with 68 goals, helped Estancia make the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
Carpenter also shined on defense as a utility player, Coach Jennifer Broderick said, and led the team with 45 assists. The team captain was a first-team All-Orange Coast League selection; the Eagles finished third in league.