When former Georgetown tennis player Kelly Comolli (COL ’14) arrived at the Hilltop in January 2012, she had no idea that adjusting as a transfer student would be just one of several major transitions that would define her Georgetown experience.
The former Academic All-Ivy Team member at Cornell University undoubtedly made an impact on the court as a new Hoya. But her legacy of leadership, service and academics would be equally as important in leaving her mark at Georgetown, setting her apart as one of the top 30 finalists for the 24th annual NCAA Woman of the Year Award.
Comolli remembers being nervous as a new member of the Georgetown team, but she was quickly and seamlessly incorporated into the team dynamic.
“It couldn’t have been easier,” Comolli said. “The girls on the team were unbelievable. I think that was a huge part of making the transition easier.”
Head Coach Gordie Ernst, who had been recruiting Comolli when she was in high school, says that he was surprised at how effortlessly she transitioned into her different roles on the team as an active contributor early on and as a captain during her senior year.
“I did know of her and of her ability and athleticism. But in terms of fitting in with the team and then transitioning to being a leader of the team, I honestly didn’t think it was going to be even near what happened,” Ernst said. “She became such a centerpiece of the team.”
As a senior, Comolli was 13-15 in singles play and 8-12 in doubles with her co-captain Madeline Jaeger (COL ’14), who had been one of the first team members to welcome Comolli as a sophomore.
Partnering with Jaeger was a special way for Comolli to wrap up her final season of Georgetown tennis. However, in October 2013, an unexpected phone call suddenly opened up a brand new chapter of her athletic career.
Comolli was in a psychology class when she stepped outside to receive a phone call from Ernst. Jim Lewis, the interim coach of the women’s basketball team, needed players, and Ernst asked her if she was interested.
Comolli laughs remembering running over to McDonough Arena after tennis for her first practice with the basketball team.
“I walked in with my tennis hat and my tennis shorts and my racket, and everybody had already started practicing,” Comolli said. “[But] those girls were just as welcoming as the tennis team was when I first transferred. I think that’s just a characteristic of Georgetown and the type of student athletes here. … it was a very, very cool opportunity. I had forgotten how much I missed basketball.”
Ernst says one of the assets that made Comolli stand out as a recruit was the sheer athleticism that is inherent to a multisport athlete. He thought that returning to the basketball court, where Comolli was a four-year letter winner at Phillips Exeter Academy, would help her get better results on the tennis court — and he was right.
“I thought it would keep it fresh for her during her senior year,” Ernst said. “She put so much into both of her sports. She could handle it — she knows how to budget her time.”
On the basketball court, Comolli primarily served as a practice-depth player, appearing in one game in December for the Hoyas in a tough 11-21 season.
Amid all the changes and transitions during her Georgetown career, Comolli says that her faith and her family helped her pull through. Comolli became a Christian around the time she transferred to Georgetown, which has impacted all parts of her life.
“Whether it’s tough times like staying up late to study after a few practices, just relying on God through that was a huge factor for me,” Comolli said. “My family and my faith have kept me grounded and kept pushing me when I didn’t want to go anymore.”
Comolli’s faith also tied into her extracurricular life at Georgetown; she was a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and gave back to the community through Campus Outreach and Team Impact, an organization that matches children facing life-threatening chronic illnesses with local college athletic teams.
Sunday in Indianapolis, Comolli was recognized alongside fellow finalists at the NCAA Woman of the Year Award Dinner for achievements in athletics, academics, leadership and service.
Comolli attended the dinner with Ernst, Athletic Director Lee Reed and members of her family.
“This isn’t an honor about me, it’s more about the Georgetown community and my family. So, for them to be there was really special for me,” Comolli said.
Spending the weekend with the other finalists — 10 each from Division I, II and III — was also a particularly moving experience for Comolli.
“[This weekend] was really motivating for me,” Comolli said. “It just got me fired up for the future. We have such an opportunity as college students at Georgetown, especially as student athletes, to serve and impact people’s lives.”