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Soleimany at the helm for Sage

Junior point guard, who leads team in scoring, always thinking on court for Lightning.

January 13, 2011|By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com
(Don Leach / Daily…)

A team wants an intelligent player as its point guard in girls' basketball.

Ava Soleimany definitely fills that bill for Sage Hill School.

Off the court, she has a 5.0 weighted grade-point average this year. She said she's taking Advanced Placement classes in physics and U.S. History, multivariable calculus, plus accelerated (honors) classes in English, biology and Latin.

It's not exactly rocket science to Coach Lou Silverman why Soleimany is so valuable on the court, though. The junior point guard shows the same kind of mental fortitude during games.

"She does not make mental mistakes, and that's a remarkable part of her game," Silverman said. "She figures out a way to maintain focus on the task. A bad shot, or a bad call, or a bad bounce doesn't get her down. That focus, that intensity is a constant, and it lifts everybody else up."

At 14.9 points per game, Soleimany is the leading scorer for the Lightning, who play host to rival St. Margaret's Friday night. She is not afraid of the pressure situations.

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Even as a freshman, she was a starter on a senior-dominated team that won a share of the Academy League title.

Things changed last year. The 2009 Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year, Tierney Danner, had graduated. So had other senior leaders like Morgan Hembarsky and Stephanie Garrison.

Soleimany went from a background role to the spotlight, scoring a team-best 10.9 points per game and earning first-team All-Academy League honors. She led the team to a third-place finish.

"It was kind of a rebuilding for our team," she said. "We kind of had to create a new identity, I guess, as a team. This year has been building off of that, and trying to get the younger players prepared for the future as well."

It's spoken like a team captain, a role Soleimany shares with senior Sarah Derheim. But Derheim has missed games lately with a shoulder injury, leaving the Lightning even younger.

Silverman has been starting two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman. Zoe Kreitenberg is the other junior, but she's more known as a volleyball player. One of the sophomores is Maggie Danner, Tierney's younger sister, who also plays volleyball and has also stepped up her play lately.

Soleimany's other sport for the Lightning is tennis. Playing at No. 3 doubles with Olivia Simon, she was a key component of the Lightning team that advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division III title match in November.

Soleimany has served up some good basketball games lately as well.

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