by Tom Utescher
After playing last winter with just two seniors on the roster, four-time defending Inter-Ac League champion Germantown Academy is starting the 2018-19 campaign with just one 12th-grader on hand.
Fortunately for the Patriots, that lone senior is shooting guard Rachel Balzer, who has signed with Division I George Mason University, and there is a very strong junior class right behind her.
Last season Germantown made a 12-0 run through the Inter-Ac, led by Division I recruits Alexa Naessens (Colgate) and Cat Polisano (Fordham), the league MVP. The Pats ended their season as runner-up to champion Shipley School in the Pa. Independent Schools tournament.
This season, Balzer is a team co-captain along with junior point guard Maddie Vizza, a starter since her freshman year. Another 11th-grade point guard, Sarah DiLello, is a graduate St. Philip Neri School in Lafayette Hill.
Jaye Haynes, a 5’8” junior guard, is the daughter of former Germantown Friends School and Villanova University star Jonathan Haynes, and she participated in the U.S. Under-17 Team trials last spring.
In addition to another tall guard, 5’9” Lindsay Putnam, there are several players in the 5’10” – 5’11” range who handle the ball well enough to be listed as guard/forward. They are the dynamic Elle Stauffer, Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduate Maddie Burns and Caitlyn Priore. Knee surgery kept Priore sidelined last winter, and she should be able to see action early in the new year this time around.
The sophomore class brings more height to the Patriots, starting with rapidly-developing 6’2” post player Becca Booth. At six feet even, 10th-grader Jessica Moore is one of the lanky Patriots classified as a guard/forward at six feet even. The sister of Julian Moore, a standout at GA and then at Penn State, Moore came over to GA last year from Germantown Friends. The third Patriot sophomore is Charlotte DiLello, sister of Sarah DiLello and also a guard.
Three freshmen who already began playing with the varsity in summer league ball are guards Lilly Funk and Bri O’Hara, and guard/forward Alex Goodridge. Funk and Goodridge both played varsity soccer in the fall, while O’Hara saw a lot of playing time with GA’s Inter-Ac champion field hockey squad.
Germantown Academy head coach Sherri Retif is heading into her 21st season piloting the Patriots, and veteran varsity assistant and JV head coach Andre Strothers is back on the bench. Former Cheltenham High School star Misha Horsey (Stony Brook University ’12) returns as well.
A 2010 GA grad and WNBA player, Maggie Lucas, had been helping her old high school team for several years, but after recently signing with a professional team in France, she started her season with Landerneau Bretagne last weekend.
A new addition to the staff is also familiar with the European pro leagues. Katie Rutan, the most successful player ever to come out of the old Springside School (’09), was a starter on the University of Maryland’s Final Four team in 2014. She has played pro ball in Greece, Romania and, most recently, Luxembourg.
Another assistant coach, Dia Veneziano, is teaching at GA, as well. A 2014 graduate of Gwynedd Mercy Academy, she went on to play at Immaculata University.