by Tom Utescher
When fall pre-season practices begin at Germantown Academy on Monday, two very familiar figures will not be presiding from the sidelines for the first time in decades. After guiding hundreds of GA athletes over many seasons, field hockey head coach Ginny Hofmann and girls tennis mentor Phil Rittenhouse have stepped down from their respective posts, although both will continue to be part of the faculty at the school.
Jackie Connard, a former player and a 2006 graduate of Germantown Academy, is returning to pilot the field hockey team, while the Patriot racquetwomen will be under the tutelage of Lora Ball, who is coming over to GA after serving as the boys’ varsity tennis coach at Upper Dublin High School for four years.
Connard went straight from being an Inter-Ac League champion in her final season at GA to becoming Brown University’s Outstanding Rookie in the 2006 season. In both her junior and senior seasons she was a captain for the Bears and also received the team’s primary sportsmanship award. She pursued graduate studies in architecture and currently works in that field for a firm in Doylestown.
Many of her GA players this fall will also be new to the current day varsity team; 10 seniors graduated from the Patriots’ 2014 stick squad.
Providing a sense of continuity will be Brooke Watson, who is returning for her 18th season as assistant coach for the team. She is also GA’s head girls lacrosse coach, having succeeded Hofmann in that sport last spring.
New tennis mentor Lora Ball did not wield a racquet in high school or college, but as an adult she became very active in the extensive USTA club program. She rapidly improved her own skills and then began to mentor others.
During her recent stint at Upper Dublin, the Cardinals won three conference championships, and last spring her first doubles team earned a berth in the PIAA state tournament. She had also worked with the girls’ junior varsity team at the school.
In addition, Ball has been working at Flourtown’s Magarity tennis center for the last eight years, coordinating club leagues and handling marketing and management duties. She’ll be building GA’s 2015 girls team on a solid foundation, since seven letter winners are returning from last fall.