Steve Musco

Attacker Kiwi Comizio ’18 cuts a noticeable figure on the field with the Yale women’s lacrosse team (7–4, 2–1 Ivy).

At 5 feet 7 inches, Comizio would not physically stand out from her teammates without the black brace that now covers much of her left leg. The four-year, two-sport athlete returned to the field in the blue and white earlier this season after nine months of rehabilitation following a torn ACL that derailed the end of her last lacrosse season and benched her for the entirety of her senior field hockey season in the fall.

“This injury just takes so long for recovery,” Comizio said. “It’s just very bittersweet, this being my senior season and the last time I’ll play for Yale, and after coming back from nine months of working so hard, it feels really good to be out there. I appreciate it a lot more than I did before — not to say that I didn’t appreciate it, but something like this makes you value the time out there every day.”

Last April, the New Vernon, New Jersey native was in the midst of a breakthrough junior campaign, with 27 goals in 13 games, while her .600 shooting percentage led the Ivy League, before she tore her ACL and sat on the sideline for the team’s final three games of the season. Comizio, who comes from a family of college athletes — both her parents played for Penn, her father on the football team and her mother on both field hockey and lacrosse — still finished the year with career highs in goals and points, and was fourth on the team in both categories despite her season-ending injury.

While ACL tears are not uncommon at the Division I level, they vary widely in estimated time and condition of return. At the time of her injury, Comizio had also been elected captain of the 2017–18 Yale field hockey team, on which she played as a back. Although she was recruited by the Bulldogs to play lacrosse, Comizio has done double-time for each of her four years at Yale, alternating her focus between field hockey in the fall, lacrosse in the spring and training in both the winter and the summer to prepare for competition.

“When it happened, it was a big loss on the attacking end and just heartbreaking to see someone who works as hard as she does succumb to a very brutal injury in the athletic world,” goalie Sydney Marks ’18 said. “Not to mention, [it was] just generally demoralizing for the team in that point of the season. We took it in stride, but it was a tough adjustment initially. All in all, she was incredibly supportive of us all and kept a very positive, determined attitude throughout the recovery process.”

After nine months of rehab and despite understanding the risk of re-injury she inevitably faces, Comizio shows no signs of hesitation or nervousness on the field. Except for the brace’s visual impact, a casual onlooker would know nothing about her injury — she runs at full speed up and down the turf, creates and takes shooting opportunities and has smoothly returned to being a stalwart on the team’s offense.

Although Comizio has played in all 11 of the lacrosse team’s matches this season, she started the season slow, earning just one point, from an assist, across the team’s first three games. In the fourth, Comizio made her triumphant return to scoring and highlighted a historic win over Harvard. After a seven-year Harvard win streak in the series, the Crimson and the Elis were knotted 15–15 at the end of regulation play, forcing the match into overtime. In the sudden-death extra period, Comizio delivered the winning stroke, spurring an instant celebration for the senior and her teammates, many of whom have watched her recover and rehabilitate.

In her eight seasons of Yale athletics, Comizio has seen an upward trajectory on both of her teams. In her first season on campus nearly four years ago, the field hockey team touted an abysmal 3–14 record. The next year, the team went 3–14 again, before improving to 7–10 in Comizio’s junior year.

This fall, the field hockey program squeaked in a 9–8 record to earn its first winning season since 2011, when it captured a share of the Ivy League title. Despite not being able to compete, Comizio attended all the practices and meetings and filled her role of captain off the field to complement the efforts of the team’s assistant captains, forward Carol Middough ’18 and back Tess Thompson ’18.

Although she acknowledged the challenges of leading a team from the sidelines, Comizio said she gained, in both field hockey and lacrosse, a wider perspective on leadership and mentorship of younger teammates. She came to understand the frustrations and insights of players both on and off the field.

“Having both perspectives is really valuable,” Comizio said. “You can speak for everyone. You can empathize with everyone on the team, and you also seem more approachable … Seeing it from that side versus just being [able] to see it on the field, I would say that was a more valuable experience that I initially would have thought.”

This year’s lacrosse team is the most successful that Comizio has been a part of at Yale: The squad has opened the season 6–1, marking its best start in 16 years. Comizio credits the work of head coach Erica LaGrow, who is now in her third year at the helm of the Bulldogs, as well as her teammates, especially those in her class. Now that she’s healthy and with just four games remaining in her Yale career, Comizio is ready to do what it takes to earn Yale a spot in the Ivy League tournament and potentially beyond.

Comizio currently has seven goals and 10 points this season.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu