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Ava steps up for Sage

High Schools

October 13, 2011|By Matt Szabo
(Daily Pilot File…)

Sage Hill School tennis assistant coach Dave Siegmund sent me an email Monday. The subject line caught my attention.

"Championships are won by players like Ava Soleimany," it read.

After I heard about what Soleimany did Saturday at the Division III Invitational at The Tennis Club Newport Beach, I had to agree.

The big event featured each of the top three teams in the CIF Southern Section Division III coaches' poll — West Ranch, St. Margaret's and Sage Hill — as well as Long Beach Wilson.

Soleimany, a senior, came up big in the tournament, which was played in the old college format of six singles and three doubles sets. Against West Ranch, she and teammate Kimberly Brown won their long doubles set in a third set super-tiebreaker. Then Soleimany did the same in singles, out-grinding her opponent to win the super-tiebreaker, 10-1. Sage won the match, 7-2, but the grueling sets took their toll on Soleimany.

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"She was spent," Sage Hill Coach A.G. Longoria said.

Longoria said Soleimany asked to sit out the next match to recover, thinking the Lightning couldn't win the round-robin tournament after losing its opener to St. Margaret's. But Sage Hill still had one match left, against Wilson. Longoria and Siegmund figured out that if West Ranch beat St. Margaret's and Sage could beat Wilson by enough games, the Lightning could win the title.

Hearing that news, Soleimany immediately changed her tone. She wanted to help her team.

"We gave Ava the option to play singles or doubles, and she said she wanted to play both," Longoria said. "That was an inspiration to the whole team."

Sure enough, West Ranch beat St. Margaret's. And Soleimany helped the Lightning clinch the tournament by again winning both sets, part of an undefeated tournament for her. She was one of four Lightning players named to the all-tournament team, along with Brown, Casey Astorino and Lauren Hsu.

A 5-foot-6 point guard on the Sage varsity girls' basketball team, Soleimany was on the Newport-Mesa Dream Team last year in hoops. She is equally valuable in tennis. She has typically played at No. 3 singles this year for the Lightning, but can play doubles as well depending on the lineup the team is using.

"She has improved so much," Longoria said. "When she first started playing, she was a defensive specialist. Now she's proven that she can play singles, she can play doubles. She can grind or she can attack."

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