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  • Matt Ondesko

Double the trouble

By Matthew Ondesko. Managing Editor

Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union Athletes are being asked to focus on one sport these days. Coaches, and parents, feel like if they play just one sport it will allow them to earn that coveted college scholarship. What some parents, and coaches, don’t know is that being a well-around athlete is better than just focusing on one sport all the time. Playing multiple sports allows a person to grow, and see things differently. Sacred Heart Academy’s Eliza Podlas knows what it takes to be good at not just one sport, but two. Podlas, a senior, is an All-Catholic is both tennis and golf for the Sharks. While her golf game is on point. Podlas might be known more for her tennis abilities. She has been a dominating force for the Sharks since she stepped on the court her freshman year. Last spring Podlas was looking forward to defending her All-Catholic title, but the pandemic cancelled spring sports. The two-time defending All-Catholic champion in singles missed out on going for number three. She also missed out on playing in a team atmosphere the most. While the pandemic may have canceled the season, it didn’t stop Podlas from continuing to work on her game. “I really missed not being able to play in a team atmosphere. That is something I look forward to most during high school sports seasons. I also missed my opportunity to defend my All Catholic title from freshman and sophomore year. However, I continued to play at Miller to keep my skills up. When tennis centers closed, my friends and I continued to play on outdoor courts when possible,” stated Podlas. “Covid forced my tennis game, as well as everyone who missed the sport, outdoors. Whether it was public courts or high school courts, I found a way to play safely, and as much as possible to keep up my game.”

Podlas is easily one of the best tennis player in Western New York. She is hardly challenged during the Monsignor Martin season. Even some of the other school’s best player can’t keep up with her. It’s that type of dedication that Podlas puts in to the sport all the time. She mixes in other interest, we will get to that in a second. But, when she is on the court it’s all business. That’t the type of attitude she has when playing a high school match, or a USTA event. “Playing USTA tournaments is definitely more competitive than high school tennis. You’re basically on your own, and lack the camaraderie of a high school team,” stated Podlas. “There are a lot of competitive girls who will do anything to be a top player. While you make friends from different areas in USTA tournaments, it ultimately comes down to not only ability, but whoever has the strongest drive to win.” While tennis is her go-to sport now, it always wasn’t like that for Podlas. Taking up golf at the age of 4, Podlas always had a love for the sport. Even when she entered high school, Podlas wasn’t really sure which way she was going to go. She loves golf, but Podlas loves tennis just a little bit more. Her love for golf, however, shows on the links when she is teeing it up with her fellow teammates during the fall season. Playing golf allows her to not feel the pressure that she might feel when she is on the tennis court. Golf allows her to blend in with the rest of her teammates and friends. “I started my golf career as a 4 year old at Park Country Club playing as a Pee Wee and taking lessons continuing on as a junior. My dad is an avid golfer, and always wished I would pick up the sport. Moving forward, I would not be where I am in golf today without my coach Cindy Miller. She is an inspiration mentally and physically. I continue to take lessons with her today, and she is the reason why my game has improved tremendously over the past few years,” explained Podlas. “This is a question I struggled with for a while when I first began high school, but since then I’ve ultimately decided that tennis wins. I enjoy it a bit more than golf, and put a lot more time and effort into it. I have been competing longer in tennis, and enjoy the faster pace of a tennis game.” But sports can get frustrating at time. While it may look easier to those that are watching her play both, the frustration is there. Anyone who has ever tried to hit a golf ball knows how hard it is to hit something straight.

Anyone who has hit a tennis ball knows that it’s now easy, especially if they are playing someone who uses a lot of top spin with their shots. It takes patience to master both sports. “Golf can definitely be just as frustrating as tennis is for me. It takes time and A lot of patience to master the sport. However, as I consider tennis to be my main sport, I am a lot more laid back when it comes to playing golf,” stated Podlas. “I won All-Catholics simply because I trusted my game, and had no nerves going out there and playing, therefore I felt less pressure. I knew there were some really serious players, so I just relaxed, played and didn’t let one bad shot get to me as it can in tennis.” Being a two-sport athlete is not easy, though. Podlas has to make sure she focuses on the sports she is playing during that season. That might mean during the fall putting tennis on the back burner while she concentrates on golf, and vice versa. It takes a lot of hard work, and balance, for Podlas to be able to focus on two sports, plus have a full class load at Sacred Heart Academy - and still have a job and a social life outside of everything else at times. “Being a two-sport athlete, it is necessary to choose one sport over another at times. During the fall season, golf is my concentration as I have practice, or matches every day during the school week,” stated Podlas. “During the spring season (and continuing onto summer), golf practice moves to evenings, and weekends. Although they are different sports, they both require me to value practice, concentration, and time management.” If there are times that she needs to detox and look for advice, Podlas knows she can just make a phone call to her older sister, Miranda. Miranda was a standout athlete in her own right at Williamsville East High School - before continue her college tennis, and academic career, at the University at Buffalo. While some might think there is a rivalry between the two, that could be farther from the truth. If Eliza is looking for advice on her game she knows that her older sister is just a phone call away. When they get on the court together, they don’t play a match. They just go out there and hit around for fun. When they hit the links together, like they did earlier this summer, it’s just for fun. “I am so lucky to have a sister like Miranda. She is my biggest inspiration and supporter, not to mention an insane athlete, and I would not be where I am in any sport today without her by my side,” stated Podlas. “Whenever I look for tennis advice, she is my go to. She is living out her dream in Denver now (and still playing USTA tennis), so seeing her is not as often as I would like, but we still communicate multiple times a day. When we are on the tennis court, it is more of a learning and fun experience rather than a competitive one, so I have yet to play her in a match.”


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