Twenty-eight goals is a season’s worth for some players.
For Corona del Mar High sophomore girls’ water polo player Maddie Musselman, it’s been all in a week’s work.
Musselman continued her recent hot play Friday night in an Irvine Southern California Championships quarterfinal match at CdM. She scored five goals, helping the Sea Kings beat Santa Barbara, 8-5.
Fourth-seeded CdM (19-3) will play top-seeded Laguna Beach in the semifinals at 10 a.m. Saturday at Irvine’s Woollett Aquatics Center. No. 2 Newport Harbor plays No. 3 Foothill in the other semifinal at 11 a.m.
The tournament championship game is scheduled for 3:15 p.m., also at Woollett.
Musselman, who played on the U.S. senior women’s national team in December at the Canada Cup, has a Newport-Mesa-best 70 goals this season. But she has turned it up lately, scoring at least five goals in each of CdM’s last five games. CdM Coach Ross Sinclair has been working on getting the unselfish Musselman to be more aggressive offensively. He said that a turning point may have happened during a practice last week.
The Sea Kings were in a six-on-five shooting drill. Musselman passed up a good center-cage look, and Sinclair called her out on it.
“I stopped,” Sinclair said. “I said, ‘Hey, that’s your shot. You have to shoot that.’ The next time, she shoots and it bars in.”
Sinclair asked all of the CdM players if they were all right with Musselman shooting the shot, and they all confirmed that they were. Since then Musselman, who has grown three inches from last year to nearly 6-foot, seemingly can’t be stopped.
“After that, every opportunity I get, I’m going to take it,” she said. "[Sinclair] said that even if I miss, it’s OK, he won’t get mad, so I’ve been trying to score a lot more ... there’s certain situations when you either shoot it or you don’t. He has really pushed me to shoot it if I can, or then Marina [Coskinas] will be open. And if Eliza [Britt] trusts me more, then she’ll take shots. It’s like a chain reaction, I guess.”
It appeared that way in the second quarter against the Dons. After the visitors’ Kristina Garcia tied the score at 2-2 early in the second quarter, Musselman took control. After Grace Morgan drew an exclusion, Musselman skipped in a power-play goal. Then, she beat a double-team at two meters with a quick backhand goal.
Musselman then struck again on the power play with 49 seconds left in the half, giving the Sea Kings a 5-2 halftime advantage.
“She knows [to be aggressive], but she’s so modest and humble in that aspect,” Sinclair said. “I had a talk with her [Thursday], and it was the same thing, ‘Hey, it’s go-time Maddie.’ I think she’s starting to understand that the team fully supports it. I think before she thought it was like she was being a ball-hog. And no, it’s far from that; it’s the opposite ... It’s your shot. If you miss, you miss.”
Santa Barbara drew within 8-5 when Jessica Gaffney scored a counterattack goal early in the fourth quarter. But the Dons couldn’t score again, despite earning three more six-on-five chances and fouling out two CdM starters.
Santa Barbara Coach Mark Walsh complimented Sinclair on the Sea Kings’ five-on-six defense after the game. Santa Barbara finished just three for eight with the extra player, while CdM was five for seven on such opportunities. Credit CdM sophomore keeper Heidi Ritner, who had a strong game and finished with eight saves.
Morgan had two goals and three field blocks for the winners. Senior defender Annie Mortimer had two field blocks as well, and Britt added one. Senior Bobbi Hoose scored CdM’s other goal.
Saturday’s matchup with Laguna Beach is the second of the season for CdM. The Breakers beat the Sea Kings, 11-6, on Jan. 4 in a Holiday Cup semifinal.