Favorite athlete: Katie Bam
Favorite team: US National Women’s field hockey team
Favorite memory competing in sports: My favorite memory was Senior Night against Springfield my sophomore year - we went into overtime and one of the seniors had the winning goal. It was a breakaway and she shot this amazing goal one-on-one with the goalie. She was not continuing her hockey career in college so the joy that brought her was amazing.
Funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: The funniest thing that has happened while competing was a game against Upper Moreland in the pouring rain. The rain was so heavy that we couldn’t even see the ball so both teams just started dancing on the field.
Music on mobile device: I enjoy listening to pop and country music.
Future plans: My future plans are to attend Appalachian State University to play field hockey and major in communications with a minor in marketing and advertising.
Words to live by: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind”
One goal before turning 30: To begin a successful career in an environment that allows me to thrive and use my talents learned throughout my field hockey career in the real world.
One thing people don’t know about me: I enjoy photography and would love to pursue that interest into a talent.
By Mary Jane Souder
Grace Ball will be heading to Appalachian State on August 7, marking the beginning of her collegiate field hockey career. Receiving a scholarship to play Division I field hockey might have seemed like an improbable outcome for the Wissahickon senior when she was a youngster.
Not that college was even a thought back then, but sports were not exactly Ball’s forte. Until, that is, she picked up a hockey stick
“I always played sports,” Ball said. “Both of my parents were D-I athletes, so it’s in my family to play sports a lot.
“I played soccer, ran track, did gymnastics and a lot of flag football, softball, tee-ball and everything, but I was never really an athletic kid. There was something about field hockey – it was the first time I ever felt like I could really use my skills and show that I was athletic.
“In the other sports I was playing, I never felt like I was good at anything. My mom was my coach in first grade for field hockey for WRA, and it was the first time when I felt, ‘Okay, I’m good at something.’”
Ball turned out to be much better than ‘good.’ A four-time first team All-SOL American Conference selection, the Trojan senior was also a two-time first team PHSFHCA All-State selection.
“Grace was such a giant part of our team this year,” Wissahickon hockey coach Lucy Gil said. “I wasn’t (coaching) her freshman year, but I know the three years I have been there she’s played every single game.
“You don’t take that kind of kid out. She can be a game changer in a lot of instances. Especially these last two years, she’s the mainstay. She’s the person you rely on to carry the ball, to distribute the ball, to be a leader.”
Ball led the Trojans in both goals and assists and is in Gil’s top 10 all-time scoring list. An impressive list that includes the most decorated field hockey player in the U.S., Katie O’Donnell Bam, who went on to excel at perennial national powerhouse Maryland and is an 11-year member of the U.S. National team.
“Katie went to Wissahickon so coach Gil spoke very highly and often of her,” Ball said. “Our team also went to the Maryland summer camp and she coached us there. I also was in contact with her during the recruiting process. She has inspired me in many ways.”
Ball’s ascent to the top of her sport didn’t just happen.
“She works really hard at school as well as in field hockey,” Gil said. “She’s always been on one of the top teams of her club, and she got a lot of recognition through X-calibur (Field Hockey Club).
“She really works hard at what she does, and she’s reaped the benefits of all that training, but it’s up to her to put the work in, and she does.”
Ball got an idea she might have a future in field hockey when she was in middle school.
“Both me and my co-captain, Hannah Havrilla, began to flourish in seventh grade,” she said. “It didn’t go unnoticed because we were captains in eighth grade.
“My coach in middle school encouraged me to play club and really get into it so I’d be ready for high school.”
After a stint with FSC on the club circuit, Ball joined X-calibur in 10th grade. By that time, her stock had soared, and playing collegiate hockey was a realistic goal for Ball, whose parents, Vicki and Bob Ball, both played collegiate sports at La Salle University. Vicki played both field hockey and softball while Bob played baseball.
“Around seventh grade, I knew that I would love to play field hockey in college,” Ball said. “After hearing my mom talk about how amazing being on a college team was and the bonds you make there, I knew I definitely wanted to play in college. Once I hit high school, I knew I wanted to go D-I, so then I started striving for that.”
Ball’s college research began with schools in North Carolina.
“My family vacations in the Outer Banks, and I just fell in love with North Carolina,” she said. “I knew it was the place for me, and I wanted to go to school there.”
That’s not to say she didn’t consider other schools. She did. In the end, it came down to Appalachian State, St. Joseph’s and Maryland but Lehigh, Lafayette and Towson also were a consideration. Appalachian State won out in the end.
In Ball, Appalachian State has inherited a special player whose elite skills are just part of the equation.
“Grace wasn’t one of my biggest talkers – she led more by example,” Gil said. “When we did sprints, it was ‘Can you catch Grace?’ because she pushes herself, and the other kids could see that.
“I made her a captain because I knew she would work so hard that the other kids would follow. I think the kids looked up to her because she was so successful and she was so good at what she did. “
Ball helped run the field hockey summer camp and fall clinic offered through the school for young girls to help them improve their skill and overall knowledge of the game. She leaves Wissahickon with the fondest memories of her high school playing days, particularly the team atmosphere of her hockey squad.
“It’s always been a super tight-knit group of girls, and it always made a positive environment and always allows us to work harder when we’re on the field and work better together because we have a good relationship off the field,” Ball said. “We are all super close off the field, especially this year, and I think that adds to how good our season was because of our close bond off the field, and the team atmosphere has always been my favorite part with field hockey.”
During her years at Wissahickon, Ball was active in student life, including FANS Club and Wiss Pals. Her senior year ended much sooner than expected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she’s made the best of it.
“At first it was a little hard to deal with because I wasn’t ready to not see my friends before I left for college,” she said. “It was mostly about the people I’ve made connections with my senior year that I wouldn’t be able to see, but I found ways to make it work at home.
“We did a Senior Prom at home. My parents set it up for me. Everybody dressed up, they decorated the house. It was really, really cute. I think you can find ways to stay motivated at home. I think you can make it work.”
Ball certainly made it work, and the Wissahickon senior – who says she wasn’t athletic as a youngster – leaves behind quite a legacy on the hockey field, but listening to her coach tell it, that’s just one piece of it.
“Grace is just a genuinely nice person,” Gil said. “She’s super nice to everybody she comes across. I can’t imagine her coming up to somebody and not having a smile on her face when she’s talking to them. She’s just an overall a great kid.”
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