Musselman's full-tank toss mesmerizes

How great was Alex Musselman's game-winning shot in the 2011 Battle of the Bay for girls' water polo?

It was so great people are still talking about it, still congratulating Corona del Mar High's senior star goalie. People will most likely talk about that shot for a long time.

How great was that shot?

It was so great it deserves a nickname. Like Dwight Clark's "The Catch" for the San Francisco 49ers.

Call this one, "The Full-Tank Toss." But Musselman's shot was more like a heave. The shot was so smooth that it only appeared to be like a simple toss. Yet there was nothing simple about this goal.

CdM Coach Sam Bailey never saw a game end the way Musselman finished off rival Newport Harbor.

The clock had less than a second showing, 0.65 to be exact, when Musselman quickly threw the ball toward the other side of the pool. As the ball traveled in the air, people could sense it was going in.

But there was no way it would go in. Would it?

Count it.

Musselman's amazing goal gave CdM a 6-5 win against Newport Harbor. It set off cheers for the Sea King fans and silenced the Sailor supporters.

Mostly everyone said, "Wow." And mostly everyone knew Musselman would be named Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week.

"Everybody's still talking about it," Bailey said. "I've been getting text messages from Adam Krikorian (U.S. women's water polo coach), Matt Flesher (Cal assistant women's water polo coach) and Brandon Books (UCLA women's water polo coach). They were commenting about it. Everyone knows about this game. She's famous."

Both teams entered the game unbeaten, CdM as the top-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Division I poll and Newport Harbor as No. 2. For a game that took place so early in the season it still had playoff atmosphere.

The Dec. 16 win was huge for the Sea Kings (3-0), who had lost five straight to the Sailors (3-1).

"It's early in the season, but the game obviously means a lot to both schools," Bailey said. "I hear Newport athletes say the highlight of the year is that game. The similarities are the same from CdM. But we keep reiterating this is one step closer to the ultimate goal.

"As much as the win is great, the fact the girls came back and kept their composure speaks volumes of their confidence and their belief in each other."

Bailey definitely has confidence in his goalie, who was named the Newport-Mesa Player of the Year by the Daily Pilot last season.

She's on her way to UCLA and she's determined to help deliver the Sea Kings their first CIF Division I championship. The win over Newport Harbor gave credence that CdM is capable.

But Musselman and the Sea Kings know a lot of work, and maybe even adversity, remains before that can happen.

Still, the Battle of the Bay win was huge for CdM. It was the first time Musselman had beaten Newport Harbor in a high school varsity game.

"All the girls, it's like we have been waiting for this season," Musselman said. "All the seniors and juniors we've been playing together since junior polo. All during the preseason we've been saying this is our year and we've been working really hard together. This win means a lot … We worked so hard for this. We wanted it so bad."

The Sea Kings also want the CIF championship. They know they can be remembered and impact a program already rich in tradition if they win the title.

Musselman would like to be remembered. But she knows she won't be the only Musselman playing water polo for CdM.

She has two younger sisters, Maddie, 13, and Ella, 9. Maddie is not a goalie, and Ella has yet to find her position.

"Maddie is a field player; she does shoot against me," Alex said. "We are very competitive. It's tension whenever that happens."

Then Alex threw a playful shot at her sister, "She has maybe scored on me once."

The competition helps Alex. She uses mostly anything for motivation. It was easy to get pumped for the Battle of the Bay. Newport Harbor helped.

Alex said she heard that some of the Newport players were using the phrase, "Drown the Crown," in the days leading up to the game.

Alex admitted the game-winning goal proved to be sweeter because it came against Newport Harbor.

"We heard a lot of things that Newport said," said Alex, who recorded 10 saves in the win. "That makes us want to beat them. But you can't underestimate them. You have to be prepared for anything. We knew they would be confident. We just had to be prepared."

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Alex Musselman

Born: May 1, 1994

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 5-foot-11¾

Sport: Water polo

Coach: Sam Bailey

Favorite food: Café Rio

Favorite movie: "Finding Nemo"

Favorite athletic moment: Scoring the game-winning goal in the 2011 Battle of the Bay.

Week in review: Musselman, who made 10 saves, scored on a full-tank shot to beat the buzzer and give Corona del Mar a 6-5 win over rival Newport Harbor in the Battle of the Bay.

steve.virgen@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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