By Jenelyn Russo     6/21/2015

When Medina Ali arrived at Cornelia Connelly School four years ago as an incoming freshman, she had an important decision to make.

With strong interests in both theater and athletics, and knowing that the rigors of high school wouldn’t allow her to take both paths, she knew she had to choose.

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“I decided to play sports and that’s been the best decision I’ve ever made,” says Ali. “I’ve made so many memories. I have received so many awards. It’s something I don’t regret doing.”

An athletic standout who’s legacy has changed the sports landscape at the small all-girls school, Ali came to Connelly as a multi-sport athlete who had a real desire to compete beyond recreation. Her participation and leadership on the school’s tennis, basketball and softball teams led the Koalas to multiple playoff appearances in those sports, a feat that had not been accomplished by another athlete at Connelly in several years.

“Her competitive nature combined with her leadership abilities inspire her teammates to leave it all on the court or field, the way she does,” says Connelly varsity softball head coach Jason Manley.

“As a coach, I can teach an athlete how to improve on a court, in a gym or on a field, but it’s a lotmore challenging to teach someone how to have a strong desire to win, be a leader, be an inspiration and a great teammate—and that’s Medina.”

As a tennis player, Ali got her start in the sport at age 9 while at a golf and tennis camp. She originally thought she might be more of a fan of golf, but once she picked up a tennis racquet, she quickly changed her mind.

“I thought, ‘This is a sport I could really enjoy playing,’” says Ali.

She played for about four years and then put her racquet away until she started high school. Trying out for the team at Connelly brought back a level of excitement for Ali.

“I enjoy playing tennis because I get to compete,” says the 18-year-old Laguna Hills resident. “Competing is the number-one reason why I enjoy playing sports.”

The recent high school graduate will now turn back to her love for acting and film as she attends Saddleback College, with future plans that include transferring to either New York University or the University of Southern California to pursue a degree in film.

Ali hopes to maintain a connection with sports, because the fierce competitor knows full well the many life lessons she’s drawn from the games, such as perseverance.

“When it comes to life, that’s how I am,” says Ali. “If I want something hard enough, I work as hard as I can until I get it, without giving up.”