Corona del Mar High sophomore Maddie Musselman can't help but notice all of the Olympians helping out with the CdM water polo program.
Olympians Kelly Rulon and CdM alumna Tumua Anae are coaching on the CdM Grey girls' club team for CdM Aquatics. Four-time Olympian Ryan Bailey has been helping out with the CdM boys' program for the last several years.
"I just think that's so cool," Musselman said.
Some people say that Musselman is a future Olympian too. It's not a stretch at all, considering that she made her debut with the U.S. senior national team last December at the Canada Cup and has been participating in national team scrimmages with Coach Adam Krikorian since the high school water polo season ended.
Musselman is already pushing 6-foot tall as a sophomore. Her growth in the sport is just as impressive. And she does not shy away from the Olympian talk, saying she'd love a chance to compete at that level.
"It just motivates me to keep working," she said. "I would love to go to the Olympics, but I'm just going to keep striving for that. It motivates me when I hear that to not give up, just to keep trying for my goals. When I was at Newport Hills swim team, I wanted to go to the Olympics for swimming. Ever since I got into water polo, I was like, 'This is a cool sport to go and experience that.'"
As for high school, Musselman already is one of the top field players in CIF. She proved it this year for the Sea Kings, taking charge for a young team that graduated all but one starter — and lost its coach — from the 2012-13 CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship team.
Along the way Musselman flipped the switch, turning into a dominant offensive player. For her efforts, she is the 2013-14 Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Player of the Year.
The utility player showed her versatility, leading CdM with 81 goals, 48 steals and 18 field blocks. She was second on the team with 34 assists. She helped the Sea Kings score an upset Battle of the Bay win over Newport Harbor and remain consistent, taking third place in each of the regular-season tournaments.
"We did such a great job," Musselman said. "The word 'underdog' has motivated us, just to bring out our secret weapons in the games. We always think, 'We can show everyone else that we are a great team.' We're just going to keep building and building."
The Sea Kings (24-5) won their 15th straight Pacific Coast League title. They did not lose to a team ranked below them until the final game, a memorable sudden-death overtime loss to Santa Barbara in the Division 1 quarterfinals.
Musselman joins her older sister Alex, now at UCLA, who was Newport-Mesa Player of the Year as a goalie three years ago. What Maddie has, CdM Coach Ross Sinclair said, is the ability to make others around her better.
"She's one of the most selfless girls I've ever coached," Sinclair said. "I think in order to be an elite player, you have to think about others before yourself. She was doing that at the beginning of the season by default, because that's just how she is. She was still filling the stat sheet ... she was only shooting three, four times a game but she was leading our team in assists. Teams started to figure out what was going on and were eliminating some of our second and third options, and she was still looking for them when they weren't open."
Sinclair had a talk with Musselman, who became more assertive offensively while still maintaining her elite production in other areas.
"We wouldn't have had the season we had without her," Sinclair said. "There's no one on our team who could fulfill what she does, and to do it at such a young age really says a lot about the type of person she is. She stepped up when needed. The team called for it and she responded, and it's rare that you get that in a high school player. Your number's being called, what are you going to do about it, and she took care of business and then some."
Musselman was the player that other coaches, like Newport Harbor's Bill Barnett, had to game plan for. The Sea Kings still beat the Sailors two out of three times this season. Musselman earned all-tournament team honors at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions and Irvine Southern California Championships.
"She's a really good athlete," Barnett said. "She shoots the ball well, and she's aggressive. You had to account for her, that's for sure ... she's well deserving of Player of the Year."
Musselman said that playing in the Canada Cup really prepared her for the high school season. She also participated in the USA Water Polo Futures 50 Classic last fall. Her team's captain? Yep, Maggie Steffens, yet another Olympian that Musselman said she really looks up to.
Of course, with her height, now people are starting to look up to Maddie Musselman more and more.
"We're always working hard, because Ross has always pushed us to do our best," she said. "Everyone's just enjoying everything. This program's just so great, and the team is so supportive and there for everyone. The season was very enjoyable, and I can't wait for next year, just to do it again."