Freshman Thiessen stars as Eagles thump Guardians

By Michael Smith
Special to The Examiner

Grain Valley freshman Emma Thiessen has been an early standout for the Grain Valley girls soccer team.

She attributes her soccer prowess to her brother Alex Thiessen, the 2016 Examiner Boys Soccer Player of the Year who helped the Eagles reach back-to-back state final fours.

Alex Thiessen is also the boys record holder for most goals in a season with 31. He challenged Emma to break the girls season record, which is 63 goals by Rylan Childers. While that is a high bar to clear, Emma has shown she is capable of breaking it. She scored four goals Monday to help her team capture a 6-1 victory at home against St. Michael The Archangel Catholic.

“I’ve actually worn my brother’s number (3) since I was little,” Thiessen said. “I started off being under him and he’s obviously been my biggest influence. It’s really special to have his number and play under him.

“Raena (Childers, a senior and Rylan’s sister) is an incredible player and so are the other Childers. That’s going to be a really difficult record to break.”

Alex even helped Emma learn how to shoot with her left foot. She got so good that it’s now her dominant foot.

“I practice with him in the basement all the time,” Thiessen said. “I was born right-footed, and he taught me so much that I became left-footed because of him.”

Thiessen is one of nine freshman players on the team, and while the Eagles are young, they definitely aren’t lacking in talent as freshman Annabelle Totta is expected to contribute quite a bit this season, according to head coach Tyler Nichol.

“She’s a special player,” Nichol said of Thiessen. “If you come to our games, you can see that. She used to be a surprise up our sleeves but not anymore. She’s a player other teams are going to talk about how to defend her before games.

“One of our best players hasn’t even stepped on the field yet, Kylie Barnett. She’s coming back from a foot injury. She is working herself back in the next two to three weeks. Annabelle Totta is going to be growing in confidence, too, and she’s going to be a really dangerous player.”

Thiessen’s first goal came on a through ball from Childers in the eighth minute, as she made a sliding kick into the goal when St. Michael goalkeeper Kayce Cooper came out to challenge to make it 1-0.

St. Michael sophomore forward Sophia VanHorn tied the game about two minutes later with a penalty kick after a Guardian got fouled in the penalty box.

Thieseen then put her team ahead for good when she took a direct free kick from the top right corner of the penalty box and put so much spin on her shot that it deflected off the hands of Cooper and into the goal for a 2-1 lead in the 17th minute.

“That side volley she scored there is ridiculous,” Nichol said of Emma. “The technique on that, to torque her body that way, and she had the confidence to do that. That is the messiest-type strike right there. She’s a small left-footed player. She is so fun to watch.”

That score held going into halftime and Childers scored in the 44th minute after Cooper got injured after colliding with an Eagle player. The Grain Valley senior put in an empty-netter for a two-goal advantage.

Thiessen then scored a couple of close-range goals off assists from Childers to push the lead 5-1 midway through the second half.

“I have been really impressed with our freshmen,” said Childers, who had one goal and three assists. “They have really come in and stepped up.

“(Emma) is doing great. She is definitely finishing all the passes I give her.”

Rian Handy then put the exclamation point on the game for the Eagles (4-0) when she got past two Guardian defenders on the left wing, dribbled the ball inside the penalty box and punched one inside the left post with 7:28 remaining.

“This young group is growing in confidence,” Nichol said. “They were a little nervous the first couple of games, but they are starting to get over that and are settling in.”