For four years, Wildcat fans have recognized the No. 5 jersey in blue and white.
Elizabeth Belanger has not only been a star on the court for UNH, but a true leader and a passionate learner off the court. As Belanger winds down her playing career, she’s begun to look back at all the moments and memories in her time as a Wildcat.
Belanger arrived at UNH in 2012, a highly touted, talented freshman. Coming from Acton-Boxborough high school, in Acton, Massachusetts, Belanger knew what it meant to be a star. She was a senior captain for her basketball and volleyball teams. Despite her promise, Belanger was nervous coming to school as a freshman.
“As a freshmen coming into UNH, I really wanted to be able to turn a program around,” Belanger said. “One of my fears lied in the unknown. I’ve watched college basketball all my life before I got to UNH, but I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to fit in because everyone was much stronger, better and faster.”
But fit in she did. Belanger has established herself as one of the best players to come through Durham. Her 1,389 career points and 688 rebounds put her on the all-time leaderboard for Wildcat players. Solidifying herself as a star was no accident—Belanger’s competitive nature allowed her to grow into the collegiate player she is.
“I’ve grown up in an extremely competitive family. I think that’s where I get my competitive drive from,” Belanger said.
UNH assistant coach Brendan Copes complimented Belanger’s physical and mental toughness. He cited injuries the Belanger played through and fans never knew about because she refused to be sidelined.
“She will do anything she can to win,” Copes said. “She’s a warrior.”
Her competitive attitude and basketball skills earned Belanger the role of captain for her senior season. Belanger has spread her knowledge and love for the game to the rest of the UNH team by building team chemistry off the court with team bonding activities and by serving as an extra coach on the court.
Basketball has always been Belanger’s passion. Hitting clutch shots, coming up with big rebounds and leading the Wildcats day in and day out is natural for a warrior. But what Belanger does off the court shows her true character.
“Besides basketball, I am involved in SAAC, which is the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. We organize things run on campus and help out with community service in any way possible,” Belanger said.
“A lot of the community service we do, and the off-the-court stuff, she’s always trying to represent the program and the school in the best way possible,” Copes said.
With one last shot at the America East crown, Belanger remains confident in her team. Whether it’s the first game, midseason, or playoffs, Copes has noticed that Belanger “always brings the energy”. Going into her last tournament, Belanger remains positive and focused.
“I want to make sure to enjoy every moment. Make sure I leave everything I have on the floor. I believe in every one of my teammates, and I truly believe we can make an unforgettable run in the tournament,” Belanger said.
Belanger’s time as a Wildcat may be winding down, but with a little March Madness, the Wildcats could make the unforgettable run that Belanger referenced. The journey begins on Saturday, when the Wildcats travel to Binghamton for a first round matchup with the Maine Black Bears.
When the game is on the line, as it might be in the America East Tournament, there is one thing Copes has noticed about Belanger.
“She wants the ball,” he said. “That’s why she’s a special player.”