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.
"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."
The Lightning, ranked No. 3 in Division III, play a big match against No. 2 St. Margaret's on Friday at the Rancho San Clemente Tennis Club. They'll likely need to win it to claim a share of this year's Academy League title, after losing to the defending league and CIF champion Tartans, 10-8, in the teams' first league meeting Sept. 27.
But as they chase league and CIF titles themselves, the Lightning can be glad they have a fighter like Soleimany on their team.
As Siegmund would be quick to remind me, championships are won by players like Ava Soleimany.
Junior Liana Korber is the top singles player for the aforementioned Lightning, which is a nice segue into the next item. Her older brother Shane is having quite a successful freshman year playing tennis at Georgetown University.
Korber, a four-year varsity player for Corona del Mar High before graduating in June, has seen a lot of playing time for the Hoyas. Playing at No. 3 singles in the Navy Gold Invitational last weekend in Annapolis, Md., Shane Korber upset Navy's Calvin Mark, 6-2, 2-6, 10-6 (super-tiebreaker). Mark, a recent graduate of Fremont Christian in the Bay Area, won the Easter Bowl doubles title in 2009. He was ranked No. 3 last June in tennisrecruiting.net's Ratings Performance Index.
Earlier this year, Korber helped the Hoyas go 2-1 at a tournament in Rhode Island hosted byBrown University.
He is not the only CdM product excelling in the Big East. Ryan Peyton, who teamed with Korber to make the CIF Individuals doubles final in 2010, is having a solid sophomore season at Villanova.
Peyton and partner Michael Rosengren won the Flight "B" doubles title last weekend at the Quinnipiac Invitational in Hamden, Conn. Peyton was also one of three singles players for Villanova who advanced to the semifinals in singles.
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