Odness returns to the court after severe knee injury
By Anthony Schlass, Current Staff
West Bend East senior Elizabeth Odness wasn’t used to becoming emotional before a basketball game. But she had never had to wait six months to play, either.
Odness, a three-sport athlete, returned to the Suns basketball team Jan. 27 after a long recovery from an injury sustained in June. The East student-athlete tore her ACL and meniscus in a summer league basketball game. After sitting out the whole fall and missing her volleyball season, Odness missed the first half of her basketball season as well.
“Making the comeback felt great because I’ve been waiting for it and ready since June,” Odness said. “I missed competing and doing something active other than running on a treadmill. I was really happy to be back.”
Assistant coach Tiffany Ziegler was also happy to have Odness back.
“She’s a great kid and a role model,” Ziegler said. “Elizabeth is the definition of an East female athlete.”
The timing of the injury was the most unfortunate aspect. Because the injury happened over the summer, Odness missed her entire senior volleyball season. It also meant missing her final year under coach Colleen Hasse.
“It was awful,” Odness said. “Volleyball is my sport and that would’ve been my sixth year playing for Colleen. It was really hard to sit on the sideline. You can only do so much from the sideline. You can’t make the plays happen, you can only encourage them.”
Odness has competed in basketball and volleyball for four years, and, starting sophomore year, she played goalie for the soccer team.
After the injury, Odness had the option to attempt to play but, after discussing it with her inner circle, chose not to.
“My parents said ‘it’s up to you,’” Odness said. “The doctor told me I could try to play but if I was her daughter she wouldn’t let me. Colleen didn’t even give me the option because she didn’t want me to mess up my knee for the future.”
Odness had surgery July 20. If this process wasn’t hard enough, Odness also struggled to tell her volleyball teammates the bad news.
“Told my teammates and I broke down right away,” Odness said. “These are the people I’ve been around forever. The other seniors I’ve played with since age 12.”
Like good teammates, they had her back throughout everything. Odness said that all were supportive and did everything they could to include her in team activities.
“I never thought I wasn’t a part of the team,” Odness said.
The injury, which happened June 23, was the result of a freak accident. Odness knew immediately that something was wrong.
“We were playing at Cedarburg and I went to crossover, just a normal thing I’ve done thousands of times and I pushed off wrong and collapsed,” Odness said. “I’m not a person that’s going to stay down, but this time I wasn’t able to come back up. The girl who was guarding me thought she did it and apologized but she didn’t even touch me.”
Teammate Meredith Vande Zande saw the whole play unfold and immediately came over to see what was wrong. The injury was devastating to the whole team, but Vande Zande says that Odness remained a key figure on the team this year.
“I’m not a person that’s going to stay down, but this time I wasn’t able to come back up.”
– Elizabeth Odness, East senior
“Elizabeth is a great leader and always puts the team before herself,” Vande Zande said. “It was evident the past few months when she came to every practice even though she couldn’t play. She has been such an important part of our team from the sidelines, whether it’s encouraging a teammate when they’re having an off day or pushing someone to work harder.”
Odness’ recovery efforts inspired the team, according to Vande Zande.
“She is always positive and a dedicated teammate because she had to work very hard to heal from her injury,” Vande Zande said. “She got back on the court a lot quicker than most people recovering from an ACL surgery because she is such a hard worker.”
That work ethic has impressed basketball head coach Eric Katz.
“Her character is unlike any other athlete I’ve ever coached,” Katz said. “She is coachable, committed, hard-working, competitive and puts the team first. If I ever have a daughter, I would be happy if she was half the type of person Lizzy is.”
Next year, Odness plans to major in nursing at the University of Minnesota. Better yet, her roommate will be teammate and lifelong friend Meredith Vande Zande.
(Top image: Elizabeth Odness, second from left, stands with friends before her basketball comeback on Jan. 27. Photograph by Emily Laufer.)