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Examiner
  • Eagles make it a clean sweep

  • Mary Elliot is known more for her coaching ability than her expertise as a gardener, but she planted a seed a few years back that has grown and blossomed into one of the top tennis players in Eastern Jackson County.

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  • Mary Elliot is known more for her coaching ability than her expertise as a gardener, but she planted a seed a few years back that has grown and blossomed into one of the top tennis players in Eastern Jackson County.
    Elliot, who is the second-year head coach of the Grain Valley boys tennis team, was Randy Draper's assistant for four years before taking over the top spot last season.
    “I teach sixth grade,” said Elliot, who has played the sport since she was 10, “and when I had Theo Nichols in class I asked him if he was interested in tennis. I knew he played a lot of sports and that he was an athletic young man, and I thought he would be a good tennis player.”
    The comment made quite an impact on Nichols, who is undefeated at No. 1 singles in the Missouri River Valley Conference and who teams with Lane Elliott to form an overall undefeated doubles team.
    “I played other sports, but I didn't know anything about tennis,” Nichols said. “I guess Ms. Elliot planted a seed, because I began to think about tennis and now, I can't imagine my life without it.
    “I don't know how many times I've talked to my parents about why I didn't start playing sooner. I love the sport and this has been a great senior season. And hopefully, the best is yet to come because Lane and I are going to team up in district and hopefully get to state.”
    Elliot's Eagles were second in the conference tournament last season and this year claimed first place with a record-shattering performance in which every singles and doubles team claimed a decisive victory.
    “I don't think any of us will ever forget that day,” said Elliot, whose team also won the regular-season dual title. “Needless to say, with all the boys winning, the bus ride back from Odessa was a lot of fun. Most of the boys sat in the back of the bus and sang and joked all the way to Grain Valley.”
    Nichols and Elliot won at No. 1 and No. 2 singles and at No. 1 doubles, Zeigler and Hicks won at No. 3 and No. 4 singles and No. 2 doubles and Chris Eubank and Jordan Snyder won at No. 5 and No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles.
    “That was a special day,” Elliot said. “It's pretty cool to win conference, but to have everyone win conference makes it even better. Most of us went in seeded No. 1, but we still had to go out and win our matches, and we were able to do that.”
    Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC
     

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