PARRISH – Odessa Eisch’s YouTube tennis recruiting video is a smash. A huge hit.
And it doesn’t matter if the Parrish Community High School senior is rocketing 86-mph serves – her Bulls coach, Erin Lisch, calls them “insane” – forehands, backhands, or put-aways at the net.
If the balls Eisch regularly abuses could talk – “hey, take it easy on me!” – would be an apt response. But the 18-year-old, who lost her first match this season before ripping off 16 consecutive wins, takes it easy on no one.
Certainly not herself. Following a two-hour practice with her team di lei, “Dessi,” as she’s called, will work out for up to 90 minutes with her dad, John, her mom, and two younger sisters, both of whom hope to follow Dessi’s tennis path.
“That’s the difference there,” said Lisch, in her second season as the Bull girls’ tennis coach. “If you really want it, you got to go out and practice.”
When the 30-year-old Lisch, who played tennis at Palmetto High and arrived at Parrish from a career as a television reporter, got the job, she knew little of the players she would be leading.
In talking to Eisch, Lisch learned she had played softball for a year, at St. Petersburg Northside Christian, earning All-State recognition as a freshman catcher. Then, she decided to switch to “trying tennis.”
“That’s how she worded it,” Lisch said. “And then once she went out and started playing, I’m like, ‘oh, my gosh. The potential is there. ‘ She can go as far as she wants with it. “
“I felt like I was better (at tennis),” Eisch said, “and I could get better faster at it than softball.”
A player at Palmetto, and once at Florida State University, a participant on the school’s intramural tennis team, Lisch hit several balls with Eisch. And only several.
“Just after one point,” she said, “I’m, like, ‘OK, I got my exercise in.’ I’m quick, but, man, she’ll run you ragged. And lei she’s over there, just standing, like, ‘you ready for the next point?’ ”
If Eisch is hard on herself, she is doubly so on her opponents. Last season as a junior, she compiled a 10-2 singles record before losing in the district finals. But in the offseason, propelled by her di lei coaching dad di lei, a version of Richard Williams, the dad to Venus and Serena, the 5-foot-8, 135-pounder improved her serve, forehand, and backhand.
The result has been near domination. Losing her first match of the season, to Manatee’s Alexis Dunlap, “fueled her for the rest of the season,” Lisch said. Not only did Eisch win 16 straight after the loss, she didn’t drop a set.
“I try to end the point as fast as I can,” she said. “Like 3-4 hits, the point is over.” With most of Eisch’s matches finishing in after 25-30 minutes – “I’m always the first match done,” she said.
More than simply a hard hitter, Eisch, said her coach, employs finesse as well. “Lei She’s really smooth,” Lisch said. “Lei It’s very strategic. She she can just float around the court and she’s already thinking of the next shot and just putting it there. It’s amazing watching her play.
“A girl might hit a really hard shot to her, but she’ll get it back and put it in such a good spot where (her opponent) is all the way on the other side of the court, and then she just puts a little drop shot in, and this other person is just running back and forth a losing steam. She just has so much finesse when she plays tennis. “
Said Eisch, “Most girls hit it back and forth and wait for each other to mess up. I don’t like doing that. I’m not good at it, so I go for winner points, mainly the left corner. “
Dessi also will use what she calls her “curve shot.” It’s a slice, but one that will bounce radically to the right. “A signature shot,” Lisch said. “It throws a lot of people for a loop.”
“That really messes people up,” Eisch said. “That’s one of my shots.” Including the one year she played tennis as a 14-year-old before turning to softball, Dessi has fewer than four years invested in the sport, but the returns have been remarkable.
According to MaxPreps, she is the state’s second-ranked player, behind Spruce Creek’s Kayla Wheeler, though Eisch said she’ll be No. 1 when MaxPreps inputs her latest statistics. And around the country, it has Eisch ranked sixth.
As can be expected, the player who won her district, earning her an automatic spot in next week’s state tournament, isn’t someone opponents want to see on the other side of the court.
“I see the (opponent’s) lineups switch around,” Lisch said. “I’m like, ‘OK, why are you playing her instead of this one playing her?’ ” At the district seedings, Lisch said, debate emerged over player positioning, except for where Dessi belonged.
“Even the host was like, ‘there’s no competition against Dessi,’ ” Lisch said. ‘Lei She’s the outright No. 1. lei She’s a force to be reckoned with.’ ”
Perhaps, but when the state tournament starts next week, Eisch wants to keep expectations low.
“I want to get as far as I can,” she said “I don’t want anybody to expect anything from me. I just want to try as hard as I can and view every match like it’s my last one. “
That low-key attitude, her dad said, must change, particularly when she plays in college. Eisch said she wants to attend State College of Florida for two years, possibly majoring in economics, before moving onto Eckerd College, which she has shown interest in the softball-player-turned-tennis-phenom with a future as bright as she wants it to be.
“I think she has the ability (to turn pro), but I need to get her mentally there,” said Eisch’s dad. “Even though she she’s confident, she she’s apprehensive.”
If so, a stronger word might describe the already-defeated opponent seeing Odessa Eisch on the other side of the net.