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East County Tuesday, May 3, 2022 1 month ago

Parrish Community tennis player throws opponents a 'curve'

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Odessa Eisch's unique shot led to her strong senior year for Parrish Community High.
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Editor

Most tennis shots rotate away from a player's dominant hand, meaning right-handed shots break left and left-handed shots break right. 

So what does Odessa Eisch's signature shot do?

It breaks her opponents' mental game. 

Odessa Eisch said she has received a scholarship offer from Warner University and is speaking with other colleges as well. Photo courtesy Odessa Eisch.

The shot, which the Parrish Community High senior calls a curve shot, moves like a screwball pitch in softball, breaking sharply to the right off her right-handed racket. Developing the shot has allowed Eisch, who lives in East County, to become a dominant player.

Eisch went 13-1 as a singles player during the regular season and ripped through the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 2A district and regional rounds of the postseason, reaching the state tournament. At the state tournament, Eisch reached the quarterfinals before receiving a tough draw.

She lost 6-0, 6-0 to eventual state champion Juhnyee See of Coconut Creek High, a four-star recruit as rated by the Tennis Recruitment Network. 

Eisch said she is not disappointed in her state tournament performance. In fact, she said the experience was unforgettable, playing in front of passionate crowds in Sanford against the best players in the state. 

Considering her late start in tennis, Eisch was a longshot to make it as far as she did. She only became interested in the sport at 14 years old after she watched a televised tennis match. It piqued her interest for a while, but she only played a year before switching to softball as a high school freshman (then at St. Petersburg's Northside Christian).

Eisch was good at softball, too, hitting .396 with 11 RBIs and playing strong defense at catcher. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, however, team sports were shut down. Eisch decided to go back to tennis. 

That's when she developed her curve shot, inspired by the screwballs she caught for her softball pitchers. 

"It took about two months after my dad (John Eisch) and I came up with the shot to get it right," Eisch said. "It's hard to pull off. You have to time when the ball bounces perfectly for it to work." 

The "screwball" shot helped, but it was not the only reason Eisch decided to stick with tennis over softball, even after team sports returned. Eisch said she has more control on the tennis court than she does on the diamond. Doing well or doing poorly is all on her shoulders 

She likes the personal responsibility and that has made tennis her obsession. She modeled her serves, which average 86 mph, after men's professional John Isner — who is known for having a hard, heavy serve that is difficult to return— and modeled the rest of her game after Emma Raducanu, the women's 2021 U.S. Open winner who is exceptional in her volleys and rallies. 

Eisch said she practices for two hours each day during the season with her team, then goes home and practices for another hour and a half by herself. She found a preferred match strategy — hitting to the left and right corners, then approaching the net for a drop shot or a smash, depending on where the ball is — that worked for her. Over her two seasons at the varsity tennis level, Eisch rapidly improved. Her 17 total wins this season were the second-most in the state. 

Despite her relative inexperience, colleges have taken notice of Eisch's performances. Eisch said she has received a scholarship offer from Warner University and is still talking with other schools like Stetson.

He is happy she chose tennis and eventually had the opportunity to show off her athleticism.

"I treat every match like it will be my last one," Eisch said. "It was my senior year this year so I wanted to beat everyone. I came pretty close. No regrets."

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I’m the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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