Sept. 26, 2012
Originally published in the Fall 2012 edition of the Cal Sports Quarterly
By Melissa Dudek
This fall, if you're seated on the benches in Edwards Stadium or nestled along the sidelines at Maxwell Family Field, there is one word you will often hear bellowing out of the speakers at either venue: Comeau.
Sisters Rachelle and Taylor Comeau are in their second and final season of being a one-two punch in Golden Bear fall sports. Senior Rachelle is a forward on the field hockey team, trying to help her squad repeat as NorPac champions. Sophomore Taylor is a midfielder on the women's soccer squad and looking to experience the NCAA Tournament for the second time in her young career.
The Comeau sisters are the youngest of four siblings in a very sport-centric family. Their parents, Robert and Stephanie, ran track together at Los Gatos High. Oldest brother A.J. played rugby at San Jose State, and brother Robbie played club lacrosse at Cal.
In a family of six, "friendly" pickup games were a common occurrence when the girls were younger. Basketball, soccer, baseball, hockey and even roller hockey games would break out on a regular basis.
"One time, we were playing soccer on the beach," Rachelle recalled. "I was slide tackled from behind. Robbie was bleeding. Mom twisted her ankle. Dad got hit in the face. It was pretty rough."
There was always one set rule in the pickup games that involved the makeup of the teams.
"We had set teams because Taylor was the most competitive of all of us," Rachelle explained. "And one of my older brothers, Robbie, he cheats when he plays. So Taylor would start crying if she would lose. It was pretty bad. So we had respective teams to play in to make sure those two were always together."
"That was when I was younger, not when I was like 18 or anything," Taylor is quick to add.
Sports weren't the only thing the family collaborated on. When the girls were in middle school, they also worked together to raise an orphaned cow named Martin in their side yard at their house in Los Gatos.
"We were in Oregon where my grandparents have a farm with cows," Rachelle recounted. "One of the mothers gave birth to a calf. She unfortunately passed away while giving birth, so this calf wouldn't have gotten milk, and my grandmother and grandfather couldn't feed it every day. So, we took it in the back of our Suburban and drove it all the way down to California. Then we had a cow in our back yard until it was old enough to go to the farm. We nursed it. It was like a dog/puppy. "
Long before Martin arrived and long after his passing, the girls' passion for sports thrived. At a very young age, they started playing organized sports in addition to the family free-for-alls.
"We started playing soccer when we were like three," Rachelle recalled. "It was the age when all you would do is run around in clumps with your team."
Eventually the athleticism and competitive drive of the Comeau sisters helped them stand out. Taylor, being two years junior to Rachelle, also took advantage for her age difference.
"When Taylor was young, she would come to my soccer practices," Rachelle said. "Taylor was always very dominant in soccer, probably because she played every single day and she had to play against girls that were a lot bigger than her and stronger. She learned to rely on her skills and not being the fastest."
Rachelle spent her younger years with a balance of volleyball and soccer. When she was a sophomore in high school, she came to a realization that volleyball probably wasn't the sport for her.
"By the time I hit my sophomore year, I was `I'm short,'" Rachelle admitted. "People always told me I should try out for the field hockey team because it was running. I just decided one day and switched to field hockey. It was quite easy to pick up because it is the same tactics and lanes as soccer, so soccer really helped me with field hockey to be not as behind."
She immediately became a starter. As soon as Taylor was in high school, she also took up field hockey despite really not enjoying the sport.
"I played it four years of high school because I had good friends on the field hockey team," Taylor explained. "Also, Rachelle was playing. I kept playing in hopes that the team would be good and it would help Rachelle get noticed."
Taylor's dedication to her older sister came to a head during the Central Coast Section playoffs. The Los Gatos High team was working its way up through the bracket. Rachelle was hoping that a championship would help put her and the team in a spotlight where she might earn a look from college coaches on the recruiting trail. The only way to win was with Taylor on the field.
"Taylor was on the really, really competitive travel soccer team," Rachelle said. "She almost didn't go to our final game because they had a really important game that day in Arizona. I said `You need to be there. You need to help me. We need to win.' She came and we won that game. She literally left [for her soccer game] right when the buzzer went off. "
Rachelle did catch the attention of Cal head coach Shellie Onstead and earned her scholarship offer from Cal. Taylor did play field hockey all four years at Los Gatos, but it really is soccer that is dear to her heart.
"I've always liked soccer," Taylor said. "I think there is so much more you can learn about it. It's a big cultural sport. It's a big sport around the world. I like the competiveness. I like how you can kind of bump into people. It's always been my sport. I'm quick and competitive, and I can run for a long time."
Taylor's decision to come to Cal was anything but an empty-netter. She had offers from multiple schools with great academics and fantastic soccer programs. In the end, it was her time in summer camp with head coach Neil McGuire as well as the opportunity to see her sister that cemented her decision to become a Golden Bear.
The two sisters try to find time to have dinner together twice a month at Rachelle's house. Whenever possible, they also catch one another on the field.
"I was there for her first goal," Rachelle gushed. "Oh my God! It was a corner kick. She was standing at the top of the 18. A few yards out, I'd say. It was redirected around a little bit. It was in the air and left-footed and she balled it into the back of the net. I was like `OH MY GOD! I know her.' That was amazing. All of her goals are amazing. I was so excited."
Like the sisters themselves, Cal fans have one more season to get excited watching both Comeaus compete on campus this fall.