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Peters Township tennis champion makes smooth transition to volleyball

| Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, 10:36 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Peters Township's Sara Komer returns a volley Wednesday Aug. 22, 2012.
(c) 2012 Aaron Loughner
Natalia Perry won the Section 1-AAA singles tournament as a freshman for Franklin Regional on her home courts Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. Aaron Loughner | For The Norwin Star
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Peters Township's Sarah Komer returns a volley in front of teammate Abby Cummings during their WPIAL Class AAA doubles championship match against Oakland Catholic Friday October 5, 2012, at North Allegheny.

Don't accuse Peters Township junior Sara Komer of getting complacent. Or of not trying new things.

After two years of high school tennis — each highlighted by Section 5, WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA doubles titles, as well as PIAA team championships — Komer this summer decided to trade her tennis racket and eight medals for a pair of volleyball shorts.

The desire to play competitive volleyball, something she hasn't done since she was 8 years old, is essentially Komer's way of taking over the family business. Komer's mother, Vida, was an outside hitter on the Penn State women's volleyball team from 1983-86.

“I wanted to do it because I knew it would take me out of my comfort zone,” Sara Komer said. “I knew I would really have to work for this, and I would grow as an individual.”

As dramatic as it may sound, Komer didn't make the volleyball-for-tennis trade straight up.

Komer, who's a four-star recruit and considered the fourth-best player her age in Pennsylvania by tennisrecruiting.net, wanted to focus on individual work and USTA tournaments.

That, coupled with a nagging desire to try volleyball again, led to the decision.

“She's been playing tennis year-round for several years, so this is a little break,” Vida Komer said.

Sara Komer admitted she questioned the switch, right up until volleyball practice started.

“The day before I was going to do it, I was thinking, ‘Is this the right decision? Am I going to play well? I've never really done it before,' ” said Komer, who's a 6-foot middle hitter. “Then once I was there, I knew it was the right decision.”

So did Ashley Green, Peters Township's volleyball coach.

Green, whose aunt, Linda Scahill, played volleyball at Duquesne and knows Vida Komer, had often lobbied the family for Sara to come out for the team.

Transitioning has not been seamless, Sara Komer admitted. The footwork was different. Reading defenses, rotating and positioning were mostly foreign. Yet Komer has proven to be a quick study.

“I call her the ‘Little Sponge' because she's constantly wanting to learn, always asking questions,” Green said. “She's really competitive, so she's picking up on the advanced part of the game way faster than I thought she would.”

Despite barely playing in the first three matches of the season, Sara Komer entered Wednesday's four-set win over Greensburg Central Catholic and never left, finishing with five kills and three blocks.

“She was incredible,” said Green, whose team went 16-3 last season and reached the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals. “She had a huge impact.”

Which was a given when Komer stepped on the tennis court for high school matches. She teamed with Stephanie Smith in 2011, and the pair didn't drop a set in postseason doubles tournaments.

With Smith electing to not play high school tennis last fall, Komer and new partner Abby Cummings repeated the feat while helping Peters Township to its fourth team title in seven years.

“Some people were like, ‘What are you doing?' ” Komer said. “But I wanted to focus more on tennis during my personal practices and also have the opportunity to try something different.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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