A loose ball bounces toward the baseline, and No. 14 in the Steinert basketball uniform runs over and grabs it. A split second later, an opposing player who was taking the same route, reaches in to wrap her hands around the ball in an attempt to tie up the Spartan or actually rip it away from her.
That will never happen, as she clutches the rubber sphere like it was her first-born child.
“No way,” she said. “That’s my ball, and nobody’s getting it.”
Her name is Morgan Comfort. But she is hardly a comfort to any opponent in any sport.
The senior sure puts Steinert basketball coach Kristin Jacobs at ease, though.
“I try to talk about her without crying,” said Jacobs, who is down to her last month with Comfort. “She’s been the quintessential type athlete. Basketball is not her number one sport. But you wouldn’t know that by the way she leads this team and what she does on the court.”
Comfort’s road to college was paved on the softball field, and she is headed to Ursinus College next year as a pitcher/outfielder. She also made herself into a pretty solid field hockey player despite not starting the sport until her freshman year.
‘I like to just give everything 110 percent. That’s my personality, that’s just who I am.’
But Jacobs is correct. Anyone watching Comfort play basketball would swear she was vying for a scholarship to Connecticut. She even wears protective braces on both knees because she’s diving on the floor so often.
“That’s just me,” said Comfort during one of those rare times she sat still for 10 minutes. “I like to just give everything 110 percent. That’s my personality, that’s just who I am. Whether it’s field hockey, basketball or softball, I just go in and be a menace.”
She was, in fact, tagged “The Menace” her first month in high school when she gave a field hockey teammate a frightening moment to remember.
Comfort grew up playing HGSA softball and Hamilton PAL basketball and knew she would go out for those sports at Steinert. But what to do in the autumn?
“I was just like, ‘Why not field hockey?’” she said. “I wanted to play three sports. I don’t like sitting at home. I like doing stuff and being around a ball, or whatever. I thought ‘Let’s go out for field hockey. I know a lot of people going out for field hockey.’ It’s like softball, but on the ground.”
Actually, the ball is meant to stay on the ground, but Comfort was not too savvy on that detail when she first started.
“I kept hitting it too high,” she said. “It turned into more of a softball swing. I drilled one right into the chest of a girl at practice. I felt so bad. She still talks to me about that today.”
Thus, “The Menace” was born.
“Very appropriate,” Comfort said with a laugh.
Fortunately for all those around her in green and white uniforms, Comfort learned the game’s nuances and became a threat only to the other team. This past fall she led the Spartans in overall scoring with seven goals and four assists.
In basketball, her stats have steadily risen after surprisingly making varsity as a freshman.
“I always knew I would play here but I didn’t expect it my freshman year,” Comfort said. “She said she was going to have me and Cass (Cassidy Wood) play up with the varsity sometimes, and I was like ‘OK cool.’ Then I remember her giving out the jerseys and me getting my varsity jersey, and I was like ‘Oh my God, I’m playing varsity. Whoa! This is real.’”
Comfort averaged 1.5 points and 1 rebound in ninth grade. That increased to 3.8 and 2.5 as a sophomore and 5.0 and 5.2 as a junior. This season, through the Spartans’ 6-4 start, Comfort led the team with 7.7 rebounds and chipped in 5.3 points, 1.2 assists and 1.4 steals.
“She’s been doing this for a few years and has really grown into her own as a basketball player,” Jacobs said. “We found her niche. She played guard her first couple of years, and she’s a very undersized forward (at 5-foot-5) but she can jump out of the building better than any six-footer. Her work ethic is meticulous and it shows in every sport she competes in.”
Teammate Erika Golik feels the Spartans feed off Comfort’s lead.
“She plays so hard and with so much heart,” Golik said. “Her energy on and off the court just pumps us all up. That’s what makes her game so successful.”
Comfort’s most valuable asset is that she plays hard, but not out of control. Some players with her intensity tend to foul too much, or overplay a ball that leads to an easy bucket. Comfort, however, personifies controlled chaos.
“I do whatever coach needs; it depends on who’s in the game,” she said. “If we have our speed group in, then I have to be the one that kind of settles everybody down. We can’t be going a million miles an hour the whole time or nothing is going to get done. I’m out there to calm the offense, calm the defense and make sure we’re doing things right.”
As for scoring, Comfort said, “If I get some points, that’s great. If I make a jumper, that’s even better.”
Indeed, her perimeter shooting seems to be the one thing lacking in the arsenal.
‘I don’t like sitting still.’
“If she focused on the game all year round and found that jump shot with the shooting machine on a daily basis, then the sky’s the limit,” Jacobs said. “But that’s with whatever she does, whether it’s school, whether it’s jazz band; academics. She can do whatever she puts her mind to. If she wanted to be the best ballerina, she could be the best ballerina.”
Comfort gasped in horror at that final suggestion, saying, “I don’t dance! Not at all. Quite the opposite!”
She is, however, a member of the Italian Club and Peer Leadership, while her 4.3 GPA has her in the National Honor Society. She also plays flute in Steinert’s concert and jazz bands.
“I don’t like sitting still, I don’t like not doing anything,” she said. “I’ve always been a busy person.”
She will be getting busy on the diamond in another month, as she and basketball teammates Wood and Madison Balke will attempt to lead Steinert to a second straight state title. Then, it’s off to college.
“It was between Ursinus and DeSales University,” Comfort said. “I decided before Thanksgiving. I’m so happy. It’s the perfect fit for me. I love the academics, they’ve got everything I want, even a coaching minor, which is really cool.”
Her major will be in athletic training, which seems only fitting. With that as her profession, she will indeed, be providing comfort to athletes.