'Boringly successful' Emma Thiessen lifts Grain Valley tennis to district team title

Bill Althaus
The Examiner
Emma Thiessen, center front, is "revived" by teammate Chelsea Gorden after claiming a 6-4, 6-2 No. 4 singles win that helped Grain Valley edge St. Pius X 5-4 in Class 2 District 8 action Friday at Grain Valley. Thiessen, used a constant barrage of lobs to frustrate her opponent en route to the district clinching victory.

For two hours and 35 minutes, Grain Valley sophomore Emma Thiessen lobbed her way to the one of the biggest victories in her young tennis career. 

She got past St. Pius X's Kintzie Wagner 6-4, 6-2 to clinch a 5-4 Class 2 District 8 championship for the underdog Eagles. 

"When it was 4-4 and it was up to Emma, I leaned over to (my wife) Michelle and said, 'I like how this is going because we have the toughest kid in our school playing for the championship,' and I was right," Grain Valley coach Randy Draper said. 

"She has the most unique game I have ever coached or seen, but it works for her, and if it works for her, it works for me." 

Because of her athleticism, Thiessen can cover the court like a tarp. However, every one of her returns is a lob – and by the end of the match, it was obvious that she was getting into Wagner's head. 

"I love Emma to death,” said senior teammate Chelsea Gorden, “but I could never play her. I'd want to strangle her!"

Teammate Finley LaForge agreed, adding, "She plays a game that is boringly successful. I don't know how she does it, but I'm glad she does it and I'm glad she's on my team because I would never want to play her." 

Grain Valley tennis coach Randy Draper and his team pose with the district championship trophy after edging St. Pius X 5-4 Friday.

Kylee Bragaw – who actually beat Thiessen in the individual district singles tournament last week as both earned state berths – won 6-4, 6-4 at No. 3 singles to put the spotlight on Court No. 4 and Thiessen and Wagner. 

"Look, it works for Emma and I'm not going to try and change anything," said Draper, as Thiessen jokingly fell to the court surface following the marathon match, as her teammates rushed out with water. "She's like a backboard in basketball. You put up a shot, and it comes back to you off the backboard. You put up a shot and Emma is going to return nearly every one of them." 

Draper chuckled, paused for a minute, and added, "I'm just glad she was able to wrap it up before it got dark." 

Upon hearing that comment, Thiessen said, "Before dark? I have a football game to get to." 

And that was another Eagles win as Grain Valley traveled to William Chrisman and beat the Bears 45-7. 

Before talking about her memorable win, Thiessen thanked all the fans who attended, including her parents, Brent and Nicki Thiessen. 

"I'd look over at my dad and my mom, and my dad would just point to his head – like stay cool and think about what you're doing," Thiessen said. "That really helped keep me focused." 

When asked if she beat her opponents, or simply bored them into submission with all the lob shots, she chuckled. 

"Maybe a little of both," Thiessen said. "I knew my opponent was getting frustrated, but that's the way I play and I don't plan on changing." 

Joining Bragaw and Thiessen as winners were No. 6 singles player Brooklyn Spencer, LaForge and Gorden at No. 1 doubles and Bailey Jinkens and Spencer at No. 3 doubles.