Molly Solem did not squirm in her chair.
As a member of a science class at Highland Park High School last fall, the senior swimmer/water polo player viewed a live video of a man undergoing a double-bypass heart surgery.
“It was interesting, seeing what the surgeon did, seeing the man’s heart beat during the procedure,” Solem recalled after a home water polo game last week.
The prognosis for the Giants — with Solem serving as a popular captain and a highly effective player — for the rest of the season is an upbeat one. HP, a sectional finalist a year ago, improved its record to 6-4 when it downed visiting Vernon Hills 6-2 on April 6.
Solem came up big in the second minute of the fourth quarter, drawing a kickout and then quickly flicking a pass to her twin, Julia Solem, who whipped a shot past the Cougars’ goalie.
The tally gave the Giants a 5-2 lead — and some extra breathing room — at the 5:14 mark of the frame.
“When I think of Molly, I think of a reserved gem,” said HP girls water polo coach Christine Pasquesi. “She’s unassuming and cucumber-calm. Molly is not the most vocal player, but she commands the pool, and everybody respects her because she’s technically and fundamentally strong as a player.
“Total team player, too,” the coach added. “Ask her to do anything for the team, and she’ll say ‘OK’ with a smile every single time.”
Molly Solem — bound for the University of Southern California with a plan to major in bio-chemistry/pre-med — will graduate from high school with four varsity swimming letters and four varsity water polo letters. Solem swam on the Giants’ Central Suburban League North Meet championship squad in her junior season (2015) and helped HP’s polo crew earn an Elite Eight berth in the state playoffs last spring.
HP bowed to top-seeded Stevenson in a sectional final.
“People underestimated us [in water polo, in 2016],” said Solem, who ranks among the Giants’ leaders in goals, assists and steals this spring. “It was real cool to prove them wrong. Getting to that game, against an insanely good team like Stevenson, was memorable, the highlight of my years in water polo. To reach that game meant a lot to our program.”
Following the game last week against Vernon Hills, a request had been made to interview one of Solem’s teammates about Solem. Pasquesi sought a teammate for the interviewer.
But three teammates — juniors Noa Cole, Breanna Haak and Arianne Cole — wanted to answer questions about Solem.
Wanted to tout Solem.
So Pasquesi sent all three of them to the journalist.
“Such a good leader,” Noa Cole said. “Such a valuable leader. Molly knows what to say and when to say it. If we’re going up against a tough opponent, she usually figures out a way to brighten the mood.”
Added Arianne Cole: “Role model, with the most experience, and she embodies [the successful student-athlete]. Molly never gets down, never gives up. And she’s always about the team, 100 percent.”
Chimed Haak: “Molly has three R’s going for her — respectful, reliable and responsible. What other teams notice about her, more than anything else, is how focused she is. Molly is a serious player, but she’s not afraid to joke around and keep the team in good spirits.”
Solem’s team out of the water is the school’s Model UN contingent, of which she is president. Too much frozen atmospheric water vapor — or snow — forced the cancellation of her flight to the UN Headquarters in New York last month. She and her Model UN partner, Hayden Katz, arrived on Day 2 of the conference, where they represented the United Kingdom in a simulated session.
Solem got to speak where UN General Assembly diplomats speak.
“It was a little intimidating at first, but I wasn’t all that nervous, and it was a great experience,” Solem recalled, adding she declined to use a British accent while speaking at the conference “because I don’t have a very good one.”
Words aren’t always necessary when Solem needs to get a message across to a teammate.
Or to a coach.
“During a timeout or when we’re in a team huddle on a pool deck, it’s nice for me to look at Molly and see her with a reassuring smile going,” Pasquesi said. “It’s good feedback, her smile, because it makes you feel instantly comfortable.
“That smile of hers,” the coach added, “is one of the reasons Molly is an approachable teammate.”
Notable: Highland Park girls water polo coach Christine Pasquesi, a 1999 Loyola Academy graduate and a Chicago resident, succeeded Danny Weinberg, who stepped down last spring to pursue an opportunity in another state. Weinberg’s predecessor? None other than Pasquesi, who had guided the Giants’ program for “seven or eight years” before the start of Weinberg’s tenure with the team. … Giants junior Arianne Cole poured in three goals and collected two steals in HP’s 6-2 defeat of visiting Vernon Hills on April 6. Her sister, Noa Cole, finished with two goals and three steals, while senior Julia Solem contributed a goal and a pair of steals. Winning goalie Abbey Hodges stopped 11 shots, with several of her saves coming on point-blank shot attempts. … Giants senior Molly Solem, on her decision to attend USC: “I consider myself a cold-weather person. It’ll definitely be a change, going to school out there in that kind of weather, but I’m excited about it. My mom [Patti] wanted me to stay close to home, wanted me to attend Lake Forest College or College of Lake County. But she has accepted my choice to go to school in California.”