Sept. 9, 2016
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Next Game: Tonight, 7:00 p.m. vs. Georgia. The Georgia Challenge at O’Keefe Gym
As she stood behind the service line ready to serve the ball, Kodie Comby wore a big grin. There was a lot to smile about.
Georgia Tech was already up two sets over Georgia State, her collegiate home debut, and needed one more point to clinch the match.
The ball arrived and the smile simultaneously disappeared. She was now all business.
She wound up and wind milled in a circle slapping the ball to the floor and catching it. Slap-thump! She did it two more times — Slap-thump! Slap-thump! then spun the ball in her hands and took off toward the net, tossing it up and ripping her serve over the net.
The ball passed just over the front line, just in front of the back line and just out of reach of a diving Panther. The crowd roared, the Jackets met in the middle of their side of the court. They were 1-0 in the Georgia Challenge and their minor two-game losing streak was over.
“I’ve done that ever since club,” said Comby. “Just bounce it three times, spin it a little bit, take my time, take a deep breath then serve it. I’m just going to keep that going.”
As cool as a four-year senior, Comby, a 6-1 freshman from Houston, Texas, and plenty of places in between — more on that in a second — kept it going long enough to serve out the final six points of the match and clinch the victory.
“It was really fun,” she said, breaking into what has become her signature smile. “Coach was on the side helping me out and the blocks on defense definitely helped with the serving. I think we all just came together and did a really good job.”
She’s also rather modest.
“She’s great. She does a really good job back there, especially for being a middle,” said Jackets head coach Michelle Collier. “She’s very consistent with her serve and she’s got a good touch on the ball, she can play defense so she’s definitely an asset and it was great to see her coming in and stepping in and playing the role that we needed her to play.”
On Tuesday afternoon in the opener of the Challenge, Comby sat for almost the entire first two sets but when she came in, immediately made a difference. On her second play she and junior outside hitter Ashley Askin combined to deny the Panthers. It gave the Jackets point No. 24. They’d win the set on the next point. Then came the third set, where she totaled two kills, a dig and an ace, including the serving binge at the end.
That set-plus served as a nice warmup. In the nightcap that night, Comby exploded for a career-high 12 kills on .550 hitting, two digs and two block assists in the Yellow Jackets’ dramatic 3-2 win over a stubborn Kennesaw State. In the final set she had two kills, including one that gave Tech set point in the fifth set, and a block assist with junior Gabriela Stavnetchei.
Collier is not surprised by how Comby, who has played in all eight of the team’s matches, starting three times, and in 20 of the 30 sets, has stepped right in and thrived in her court time. She saw that in the her MB pretty much from the start.
“I think she realized that from the spring, when she got here,” said Collier. “We competed in the spring against some pretty strong programs and she performed pretty well. So I know that she understands that she has an opportunity to be a very special part of this program for a very long time. The opportunity is definitely right in front of her, I think we have complete trust in the abilities of what she can do right now and what she will be for this program. She’s a great teammate, she is easy to coach and be around so she’s going to be a name you’re going to be hearing about for a long time as far as Georgia Tech volleyball.”
A key to Comby’s ability to adjust is in her personality. She combines a steely, locked-in demeanor on the court with a loosely wound joyous side when the ball is not in play. It has already made her notable.
“We have a lot of fun moments with Kodie,” said Collier. “She’s fun to be around, she doesn’t take herself too seriously, she laughs at her own mistakes and some of the things that freshmen will go through just kind of learning their surroundings and their day-to-day, what to say, when to say it. But she’s great. She’s got a big heart, always smiling, always in a good mood.
“She’s always very positive, she always makes us laugh,” she added. “I think one of her biggest qualities is that she doesn’t take herself too seriously and yet she’s very driven and very focused on what she’s doing, academically, off the court, on the court. But at the same time she’s able to laugh at herself and kind of enjoy the moments that she’s going through in her growth. I think she has been a great addition to our culture and our program.”
Comby brings an interesting background, as she’s lived in such exotic locales as Ecuador, Dubai and United Arab Emirates before going to high school in Houston. An early enrollee (she started taking classes in January), Kodie has created great chemistry with her teammates, having lived with Askin, Lauren Frerking, and Sydney Wilson over the summer and currently resides with fellow freshmen Emily Becker, Simone Spencer and junior Gabby Benda.
Comby enjoys playing the role of super teammate.
“I think that’s just my personality on and off the court,” she said. “A lot of people on our team tend to get a little intense. So whenever things aren’t going as expected, it gets a little nerve-wracking. I try and take that side that I have and just kind of loosen everybody up and make it relaxed, make sure that we’re having fun as well as competing.”
Tonight presents a huge challenge, as the Jackets conclude the Georgia Challenge against arch-rival Georgia. Tech will look to repeat as champions and put their five-match win streak on the line. GT hasn’t lost a match in the challenge and hadn’t lost a set until last night against Kennesaw State.
It’s Comby’s first taste of the GT-UGA rivalry.
“I am super-super excited,” she said. “I’ve heard a lot about Georgia Tech-Georgia. We did play them in the spring so it kind of gave us an idea of what they’re going to do but I’m just super-excited and I know the whole school knows what’s going on. They know the rivalry. I just hope lots of people come out and show some support. Hopefully we’re going to do well and show Georgia what we’re made of.”
As important, tonight is the senior class’ last rumble with their rival. Comby echoed the team’s resolve and its urgency to send the seniors out with a win against the Bulldogs — it would break the class’ tie in their series with UGA, which stands 1-1 (they didn’t meet in 2013).
“It’s Georgia,” she said. “They want to give it their all and it’s their last time playing Georgia so they’re just excited to go all out and just ball.”