Sunday, February 15, 2004

Comeys have made squash a family affair

Siblings anchoring Princeton University programs

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When their family joined a local recreation club in 1990, Francie and Preston Comey were thrilled about spending their summers in an outdoor swimming pool.

But they ended up on a squash court instead. When Francie was 8 and Preston was 6, the brother-sister team was enrolled in Saturday morning clinics, studying the same game their grandfather, Harold Comey, played at the turn of the century.

"We knew what squash was; that wasn't a problem," Preston said. "But we've had to explain it a lot."

Fourteen years later, the Comeys have taken their squash skills all the way to Princeton University. Francie, a junior, plays for the nation's third-ranked college women's program, while freshman Preston sparks the No. 4 men's team.

The English-born sport, a distant cousin of racquetball, is hugely popular in northeast states such as Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. But the Seven Hills grads didn't have trouble finding like-minded athletes in Cincinnati, which is known for its pocket of squash lovers.

Many have migrated to the Ivy League, such as Yale's Christopher Wyant (Seven Hills), Penn's Annie Barrett (Cincinnati Country Day) and Dartmouth's Hank Alexander (Seven Hills). Rob Sivard (Cincinnati Country Day) is also part of Princeton's program.

Francie couldn't have been more thrilled when Preston followed in her footsteps last fall.

"We've always gotten along. There are just two of us (in the family), so we had to be friends," said Francie, who has relished showing her brother the campus' hot spots and hangouts.

The Princeton men's and women's teams travel together, but long-distance traveling for squash is nothing new for the Comeys. Preston, ranked No. 1 among Under-19-year-olds by the United States Squash Racquets Association, and Francie, a former No. 15, have competed in British, Scottish and Australian junior opens.

Francie's first three seasons as a Tiger have been successful, albeit physically challenging. She suffered a bulging disc as a freshman after playing six matches in 24 hours.

"I've spent a lot of time in the training room," Francie said. "I've had to adjust my game and focus on taking more shots than running."

In college squash, the top nine players per team compete, plus one alternate who plays an exhibition match. Francie has dipped to ninth in the lineup because of her lingering injury, but women's coach Gail Ramsay said her talent hasn't wavered. Francie's come-from-behind 3-2 win over Tina Brown last Sunday lifted the Tigers over Harvard in an Ivy League thriller.

Though he's a freshman, Preston has been holding his own. Poised at seventh in the lineup, he has gone 4-2 in his first collegiate matches.

After the season ends in March, Preston plans to play club lacrosse. Still, the Comeys imagine they'll have time to team up on an old squash court, just like the old days.

"(Francie) helps me a lot, and I can push her a little more," Preston said. "It's just fun to play together."


• Bowling Green women's basketball senior Lindsay Austin (Sycamore) was named the Mid-American Conference Player of the Week after averaging 10 points, 5.5 rebounds, six assists and six steals in two MAC games.

• The University of Cincinnati's Laura Valldeperas set a school record in the preliminary round of the 60-meter hurdles Feb. 6 at the Indiana Invitational. Valldeperas posted a time of 8.84 in the hurdles, besting the record of 8.85 set last week by Ashley Wilhelm.

• Xavier sophomore Kyle Hawley was named the Atlantic 10 men's swimming and diving Performer of the Week after winning the 200-yard butterfly (1:55.40) and 400-yard individual medley (4:15.67) in a Feb. 8 win over Butler. Hawley also swam the third leg of the 400-yard medley relay (3:32.20).

• XU freshman Matt Zollman was named the A-10 men's tennis Rookie of the Week after splitting his singles and doubles matches.

• Miami sophomore Katie Forster was named the MAC Female Swimmer of the Week after winning four events last weekend and helping the RedHawks to a third straight undefeated conference season and a MAC regular-season title.

• The Mount St. Joseph softball team has been picked second in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference preseason coaches' poll. The Lions finished 2003 with a 23-18-1 record and 8-5-1 HCAC mark and won a second straight HCAC tournament championship. They will seek another NCAA berth this season behind All-HCAC selections Carrie Higgins (Seton), Annie Neumann (Seton) and Kati Stroub (New Richmond).

• The Mount St. Joseph baseball team has been picked third in the HCAC preseason coaches' poll. The Mount (27-15) won the HCAC championship with a 17-4 record in 2003. Seniors Donny Nagel (La Salle), Dave Novosel (Colerain) and Ryan Desjardins (Colerain) are key returners.

• Miami freshman goalie Brandon Crawford-West and freshman forward Geoff Smith were named CCHA Defensive Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week for MU's sweep of Notre Dame.



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