Big things come in small packages — unless perhaps you are talking about someone with seemingly endless energy, fierce competitiveness and a larger than life personality, so much so that everything just won’t fit.
Emily Olivier is anything but a small package. The women’s tennis co-captain is a towering 6-foot-1-inch blonde, with a big impact and thundering first serve to match her stature.
Those who have seen her in action may have witnessed Olivier pacing back and forth on the baseline, yelling “Let’s go Lobos” or “C’mon, you can do this.” She might be encouraging one of her teammates, but it is just as likely that she is talking to herself, demanding that she maintains focus and gets motivated.
Sheri Threadgill, Olivier’s sister, said that is something that has been a part of her sister’s game. She tries to be conscious and harness it to bring out something good.
“I think it’s her way of holding herself accountable,” she said. “I think that it’s part of her way of getting fired up as well.”
Threadgill said she was able to make the trip to see Olivier and the Lobos win the 2015 Mountain West Conference Championship. She said it was impressive to see how her little sister held her teammates accountable in such a constructive way, and embraced being a leader.
“Being a big sister, I mean she’s like always gonna be 11 to me,” Threadgill said. “It’s really impressive how much she has grown into that leadership role.
Suzie Baklini was part of that championship team and played with Olivier for the first two years of their college careers. She said Olivier plays very big with a lot of energy, and she is always very supportive of her teammates.
Baklini said she remembered meeting Olivier on a recruiting trip and instantly knew they would be friends.
She said they had a lot in common. Both had a love of sports and enjoyed doing spontaneous things — and both were big fans of the television show “Friends.” Baklini said her favorite character was Phoebe, while Olivier gravitated more towards Chandler.
That might be because Olivier seems to possess some of the same characteristics as Chandler, including his likability and sense of humor.
Baklini said Olivier is always ready to have fun, whether they were playing a friendly game of ping pong, glow-in-the-dark Frisbee or a pick-up game of football at Johnson Field.
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She said she remembered driving to Colorado for a fall tournament when Roxette’s “Listen to Your Heart” came on. She said Olivier started singing and the team all joined in, including former head coach, Erica Perkins Jasper. She said spontaneous things like that are what she remembers about the team and it is what Olivier is all about.
Head coach Kelcy McKenna said she has started calling Olivier the “music snob,” explaining that she usually sits up front and often approves or denies songs as they get played.
She also said Olivier has an uncanny ability to memorize a song after hearing it only once or twice.
“She always says, ‘Man, if I could memorize the material for my tests like I memorize music, I would have above a 4.0,’” McKenna said. “Music is a part of her everyday life for sure.”
Perhaps a not-so-guilty pleasure for Olivier is being a huge Justin Bieber fan. Threadgill said her sister likes a lot of different music, but has loved Bieber for a really long time.
Olivier said another of her big loves is sushi. She said it is her favorite food and asking someone if they like it is usually one of the first questions she asks a person.
McKenna said Olivier knows all the sushi restaurants in Albuquerque and where to get the best deals. Olivier has used her love of sushi as an opportunity to bring the team together by frequently going out with them to eat.
Threadgill said her sister, who is entering her senior year, has had a chance to forge and grow the relationships with her teammates, saying most of the women came to the team together.
She said her sister can provide comedic relief and loves to laugh and have fun. Threadgill said Olivier is not shy; in fact she is extremely expressive and honest. She said most people want someone to be real with them, and that’s what probably attracts people to her sister.
Threadgill said her sister’s pets also exhibit her personality traits. She said Casanova, her Boston terrier, is fun, energetic and sometimes a little quirky.
She also said as much as an extrovert as Olivier is, she does like her alone time as well. Threadgill said Olivier’s cat, Maddie, does not like people, and will sometime just lounge around. She said the three of them are like peas in a pod.
Olivier said she and Casanova love to get out of her apartment and go to the dog park. She said it is one of her favorite activities.
Threadgill said her sister loves the mountains and really fell in love with the campus and the team on her visit, but Olivier said there was one thing that really made up her mind.
“I love the school and it’s really pretty and everything, but the coaches are what really got me.”
Olivier said being a collegiate athlete was a big adjustment from playing juniors. McKenna said athletes often don’t realize the gravity of being a student athlete until they are thrown in the fire, and things did not start off easy.
The head coach said if one asked Olivier about her first day of practice, she would probably say it was the hardest day of her life.
McKenna said facing trials is often the way people find out about themselves and how to dig deep within to achieve goals. Those early struggles might have helped herwhy develop the grit and determination she plays with today.
“She realized she was capable of doing everything we asked of her and gained a lot of confidence,” McKenna said. “I think she wanted to be a part of building something from the ground up. She’s not a quitter.”
McKenna said she became a leader by going through the hard times, and that experience makes her relatable to new recruits.
Threadgill said her sister is a fighter, and no matter the opponent, she is tough and a force to be reckoned with. Her desire to win for her teammates means she should probably never be counted out.
“‘Em is an extremely talented young Christian woman, with a heart of gold, and the tenacity of a firecracker,” Threadgill said.
McKenna said the motivation of playing for her teammates is something that comes naturally to Olivier because of the strong relationships she has with the team.
Olivier said some of the main principles are bringing attitude, energy and effort no matter what. She said those aspects are all in the athlete’s control and can be infectious.
“Although it’s an individual sport, the energy and other dynamics can change everything,” she said. “If one person is off, it can change things for that entire side or the entire team.”
Olivier seems to be a class act, possessing all the qualities a university would want a student athlete to exhibit. McKenna said the following to sum up her team captain’s personality.
“I would say she has really never met a stranger, and that she welcomes people into her circle with open arms,” McKenna said. “She is kind, generous and thoughtful, but also a great ambassador for our athletic department.”