CORONA DEL MAR — Senior day for the Corona del Mar High girls' water polo team was special.
The Sea Kings started six seniors in the field Friday in their 11-7 nonleague victory over Long Beach Wilson. Tori Gabert, Devon Greenlee, Lauren Marks, Yoko Morita, Maddie Schwartz and Alanna Woods were in the water as the game began. Alyssa Hornby and goalie Anna Venturini are also seniors on the team.
Marks sang the national anthem before the game. Some of the seniors, like her, Greenlee and Schwartz, have logged plenty of minutes this regular season for CdM.
Woods was just happy to make her first varsity start. She is a hard worker, not only for the Sea Kings but in the countless hours of her time she dedicates to volunteer work.
"She never uses anything as a crutch," CdM Coach Sam Bailey said.
Woods also works hard in the classroom, but there she doesn't really have a choice.
Alanna Woods is dyslexic.
She had never been a very good test taker. In elementary school, teachers thought she would just always have bad test days, because she was obviously bright. But then in third grade Woods learned she was dyslexic.
"It can be really overwhelming," she said. "I just didn't learn quite as easily as other kids. I'd compensate by just taking a long time. A lot of times, I'd have to reteach myself things."
In school, it still takes her around twice as long as other kids to do her homework. She didn't pass her first Advanced Placement test in world history her sophomore year, which she said was "the worst feeling in the world."
Woods didn't have enough time on the essays. So she applied for extra time, and last year she passed all three of her AP classes. She's in three more AP classes this year and has a 4.0 weighted grade-point average.
"I'm dyslexic," said Woods, one of two dyslexic girls on the Sea Kings along with junior Chloe Havercroft. "Just the fact that I'm taking AP classes is a huge step. I do struggle a little bit more with things, but it's nothing that I can't overcome."
She's at least as good of a person as she is a water polo player. She's done a lot of volunteer work over the years and been in Girl Scouts since first grade. Woods worked at the Enviromental Nature Center last summer and received her Girl Scouts gold award, the highest award in the organization. She made a webpage for the ENC about going green.
She's also been the secretary and treasurer of the Balboa Island Yacht Club and is part of the National Charity League. Woods' work with the NCL means every year she has at least two organizations she's aligned with.
She's worked with the nonprofit Talk About Curing Autism and Second Step, the latter a program for mothers and children in difficult family situations.
"We go and we hang out with the kids," Woods said. "We help the moms out for celebrations like Christmas and stuff, just to give the moms a break."
Playing polo for CdM isn't a similar difficult situation, although Woods admitted it can be tough waking up in the morning and knowing she probably won't have that much of an impact on that day's game. She was on the bench again Friday as the Sea Kings pulled away in the second half, scoring three straight counterattack goals.
Ally McCormick and Cassidy Papa each scored four goals for CdM (19-7), and junior goalie Alex Musselman had 11 saves and four assists. Marks also played good defense on Wilson's Eike Daube, although the USC-bound Daube led Wilson (11-16) with four goals.
"The best way to really promote a counterattack is with defense," Bailey said. "I thought the girls' defense was tremendous today."
The Sea Kings, ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division I, will await the release of the playoff brackets on Sunday.
With less than a minute left in Friday's game, Bailey put the seniors in again. Alanna enjoyed the moment, though she said her mother, Suzanne, usually gets more upset about her lack of playing time than anyone.
"It's just something I've accepted," said Alanna Woods, who has one goal, three assists and three steals this season. "I'm OK with it. I think we have a great program here."
Bailey knows that if he needs to put her in again, she will work hard.